The following article appeared in The Pelican Sierra Club Florida Fall 2016. Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson is a member of OSFR and is co-founder and past president.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Sierra Club Florida and National Organizer Merrillee MalwitzJipson have been working hard in a campaign to stop the destructive Sabal Trail Pipeline. This 515-mile pipeline would transport fracked natural gas across 644 water bodies, lakes, rivers, and streams, harming wetland systems in three states: Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The pipeline would cross directly through the Floridan Aquifer, which provides more than 60 % of Florida’s drinking water.
“The Sabal Trail pipeline is a serious threat to the rivers, springs and our drinking water found in the Floridan Aquifer,” says Malwitz-Jipson. “It also increases Florida’s reliance on fracked natural gas and the harmful emissions that come with its extraction, transportation, and storage.”
In addition to the environmental impacts, the pipeline is clearly becoming an issue of environmental justice by impacting the poor and minority communities that live along the pipeline route.
Sierra joins a coalition of other groups including Gulf Restoration Network, Spectrabusters, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Our Santa Fe River and others in taking action against the pipeline.
In August, groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its issuance of three permits that would allow construction of the Sabal Trail pipeline. The suit was quickly denied without explanation.
In addition, the coalition held a public workshop in Gainesville covering topics such as advocacy, investigation, negotiation and Eminent Domain law. Elected officials were invited on a site visit to the Suwannee River State Park, where sinkholes already exist and would be exacerbated should there be construction of the pipeline.
On September 13, protests were held on the Santa Fe River and at Suwannee River State Park, where the pipeline would be buried under the riverbed through an area of fragile limestone karst. Protests were also held in downtown Gainesville and Tallahassee; the rallies also served to stand in solidarity with the Dakaota Access Pipeline protestors.
On September 22, the Sierra Club, Flint Riverkeeper and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia challenging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) approval of the massive 685-mile Southeast Market Pipeline project, which includes the Sabal Trail pipeline. The groups contend the FERC failed to analyze the climate impacts of the project and the power plants it would serve and also failed to adequately analyze alternate routes that would have less impacts on the environment and communities of color.
The suit contends that FERC failed to consider the undeniable climate change impacts of burning 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day that will be transported by this pipeline project in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Sabal Trail will supply natural gas for future plants proposed in Florida, including the Duke Energy Citrus Combined-Cycle Plant and the Florida Power & Light Martin Energy Center. Pipeline construction alone poses a threat to local water resources as the process threatens to release hazardous materials and drilling mud into the aquifer, polluting the drinking water, and resulting in rapid transmission of drilling mud over great distances. Methane, released when extracting and transmitting gas, is 87 times as potent as carbon dioxide over 20 years.
“Florida does not need more fracked gas infrastructure or gas plants,” said Frank Jackalone, director of Sierra Club Florida. “ It’s time to solve that problem by capturing the tremendous economic and environmental benefits of clean energy including energy efficiency, solar, wind, and battery storage.”
For more information on the Sabal Trail Pipeline, contact Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, [email protected]
Sierra Club Florida