Nathan Crabbe has an excellent editorial in the Gainesville Sun calling for a more forthcoming and accurate environmental impact report by Sabal Trail who wants to build a controversial pipeline from Alabama to South Florida.
The Marion County commissioners have written a letter requesting a better and more objective study before the pipeline be permitted for building.
Marion County is but the most recent of many local municipalities and governing agencies near the path of the pipe who have protested and requested that Sabal Trail be held to honesty and objectivity.
Editorial: Answers needed on Sabal Trail
The proposed Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline would traverse 30 miles of western Marion County and travel within less than a mile of Rainbow Springs and then go under the Withlacoochee River. Yet, according to a letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by the Marion County Commission, local officials “are unable to find specific details associated with (Sabal Trail’s) analysis of the Marion County portion of the project.”
In the letter, the commission is asking the Corps to conduct an “independent supplemental environmental impact statement” to answer a litany of questions about the massive project, which will run 515 miles from central Alabama to Osceola County, south of Orlando. The pipeline, most of which is 36-inch pipe, would pass through a dozen Florida counties and pass near or under a significant number of important waterways, including the Suwannee, Santa Fe and Withlacoochee rivers. Yet, Sabal Trail is woefully short on details in its report on what steps it would take to protect these natural treasures. The same goes for Rainbow Springs.
“This project passes within 1 mile of the headspring of Rainbow Springs,” the commission wrote the Corps. “The flow paths that feed these springs are part of an underground karst network reaching far beyond the county’s boundaries … While Sabal Trail project reports identify Marion County as karst sensitive, we are unable to find specific details associated with their analysis of the Marion County portion of the project.”
Specifically, Marion County wants to know what construction practices Sabal Trail will use and, “most especially,” what the pipeline’s tolerance level would be and how it would react to a sinkhole collapse underneath it.
The county further asked the Corps what plans Sabal Trail has for protecting the wetlands and dozens of threatened or endangered species living in the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, which the pipeline will also invade. Again, Sabal Trail has offered no specifics for how damage, in the county’s words, “will be avoided or mitigated.”
That the Sabal Trail pipeline, a joint venture of Spectra Energy Corp., NextEra Energy, Inc. and Duke Energy, has received numerous governmental approvals, including from our own Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and such questions have yet to be answered is troubling. Equally troubling is the ease with which Sabal Trail has gotten key approvals without such matters being raised.
Sabal Trail insists it is seeking to use existing rights of way wherever possible, yet it is cutting through largely rural, environmentally sensitive western Marion County. It hardly seems the least intrusive place to put a pipeline.
Moreover, how can governmental regulators be so slipshod in their review process that they do not require extensive analysis and explanation from Sabal Trail as to how it will ensure its pipeline does not break or explode into our drinking water supply?
As Catherine Barrows of Dunnellon told the Marion County Commission in lobbying for the letter to the Corps, “Any potential gains will be here for 60 days. Any potential harm will be here for 60 years.”
All along Sabal Trail’s path, there is opposition from homeowners, communities and local governments. There is a reason for that — because too few questions are being answered to a potential threat that is obvious to even a layman.
We urge the Army Corps to undertake the supplemental environmental review and the Marion County Commission to watchdog the process to ensure their, that is, our questions are answered.
— This editorial originally appeared in the Ocala Star-Banner, one of The Sun’s sister publications.