As eyes are focused on North Dakota’s Indigenous American tribe’s efforts to protect their water from the Dakota Access Pipeline, Florida has its own pipeline disaster in the making. The Sabal Trail Pipeline, a joint venture of NextEra, Duke Energy and Spectra Energy Partners, is intended to carry fracked gas from Alabama 515 miles down through Georgia and into Florida. Governor Rick Scott has eased the way for the project in a conflict of interest with his own $700,000 worth of holdings in pipelines.
The pipeline is devastating Florida’s delicate karst geology, will accelerates fracking elsewhere with all the implicit and associated hazards, has inappropriately taken homes and property by eminent domain, threatens our water aquifers with contamination and damage to its casing, is an explosive hazard to our communities, and undermines our future with faster more certain climate change.
What’s more, FPL’s internal ten year projections do not anticipate the need for additional energy sources. Despite FPL’s public claims that this gas is for domestic use, permits and construction of processing facilities along the route indicate that the gas is intended for export in the form of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).
As Sabal Trail is nearing completion, we are distressed that our representative, Senator Bill Nelson, has not responded to the delivery of over 95 thousand petition signatures to his Coral Gables office late last December by a coalition of groups* appealing to him to stand with Floridians in opposition to the fracked gas pipeline project. We visited Senator Nelson’s office twice more since Dec., to no avail.
In 2014, in the case of the Keystone XL Pipeline that would have run from Canada to Nebraska, Nelson was one of the deciding votes against the project. His 2 expressed reasons: that it was not restricted to domestic use, and that it threatened the source of drinking water for millions of people in the Midwest, the massive Ogallala Aquifer.
Why has Senator Nelson been silent on Sabal Trail?
We have the same concerns here in his home state. Could his silence have to do with his ties to FPL? WLRN reports that “Nelson’s campaigns have received $73,250 from Florida Power and Light’s parent company, NextEra Energy, over the course of his career.”
All pipelines leak–in fact by a recent study, 2 to 3 times more so than official estimates claim, and leaks continue for many years without repair. When you factor in that the Sabal Trail pipeline is routed through Florida’s most sinkhole prone region, peppered with hundreds of sinkholes with new ones developing unpredictably, pipeline stress and instability are inevitable; methane leaks, and possibly explosions, make these pipelines extremely dangerous.
In addition, these gas pipelines rob us of a healthy future, stalling investment in clean energy, as they lay down infrastructure to claim precedent for supplying energy needs as they arise. We should be reducing our fossil fuel use, not expanding it.
Florida is in need of clean energy and jobs. Solar provides both, bringing approximately three times more jobs per dollar spent as with gas or oil and without the risk to environment, health or climate.
We implore the Senator to take a stand immediately, to incite an investigation into FERC’s approval process as FERC is mandated to protect our environment; to block the Army Corp of Engineers approval; and to challenge the right to eminent domain for a project that serves export sales.
The Miami-Dade Green Party stands with our community in calling for Senator Nelson to stand up against the Sabal Trail Pipeline. We have not heard back to our requests for a meeting or for a town hall. Given the urgent nature of this issue, we need immediate action, we cannot afford to hope for the best.
*Organizations that have been visiting Nelson’s office: Water Protectors, Green Party, 350.org, Progressive Alliance, Progress for All