WWALS, Sierra Club and Spectrabusters Partner to Fight Sabal Trail Pipeline

Maryvonne Devensky, Chair of Suwannee-St. Johns Group of the Florida Sierra Club Chapter, organized a “plan of action” meeting held yesterday, 01-16-2016 at Suwannee River State Park, to fight the Sabal Trail pipeline.  Maryvonne said it is time for Sierra Club to partner with organizations like WWALS and Spectrabusters, who have been in this fight from the beginning, in order to have a united front.
Sabal Trail pipeline meeting pavilion at SRSP

Sabal Trail pipeline meeting pavilion at SRSP

Approximately 40 people came out to get more information about the pipeline and to help strategize what steps to take to stop the pipeline.  Attendees included people from as far away as Baker Co., Gainesville, Marion Co., and Thomas Co., GA.  Also, in attendance was Clyde Fleming, Suwannee Co. Commissioner, and Jessica Norfleet, Citizen Advocate for Congressman Ted Yoho. Both Mr. Fleming and Ms. Norfleet gave input during the meeting.  Jessica Norfleet said that Congressman Yoho was willing to listen to our arguments against the pipeline. She also stated that FPL and Sabal Trail have been telling the Congressman that the pipeline is needed for converting the existing coal power plants in the state to Natural Gas.  Of course, several of us suggested using Renewable Energy, such as solar, instead of natural gas. Jessica further stated that the Congressman needs facts of how solar will be able to replace coal, instead of bringing in more natural gas.

WWALS members Chris and Deanna Mericle and Debra Johnson provided background information about environmental impacts, safety, LNG export, compressor station hazards, and economic impacts.  Inconsistencies between information provided to FERC and DEP by Sabal Trail, and what can be seen by walking the route, were pointed out.  For example, Sabal Trail document, Table 6.5-1 states that the closest karst feature to the pipeline route as it approaches the Suwannee River from the north, is 750 feet away.  However, in reality, as Dennis Price’s geology report shows, there are numerous sinkholes in close proximity to the route and some are bisected by the route.

Chris Mericle and Jessica Norfleet. Photo by Alton Burns

Chris Mericle and Jessica Norfleet.
Photo by Alton Burns

Petitions were signed at the meeting and available for distribution.  Plans of action included:

  1. Contacting large land owners along the route, like Bill Gates, Ted Turner, and Bob Graham to solicit their support in opposition to the pipeline;
  2. Identifying assets along the pipeline route that could be negatively impacted and bringing those to the attention of local governments;
  3. Continuing to educate the public and elected officials about this unnecessary and hazardous boondoggle;
  4. Work with other organizations such as Floridians for Solar Choice and Floridians Against Fracking;
  5. Publicizing catastrophic events like the explosion under the Arkansas River and the Porter Ranch, CA methane leak;
  6. Lobbying FERC commissioners.
Determination overcame Disability

Determination overcame Disability

After the planning meeting, attendees hiked the proposed Sabal Trail route through Suwannee River State Park property where it will be installed by HDD (Horizontal Directional Drill) under the river. Young and old made the 2 mile journey to see active sinkholes along the pipeline route.  The findings of geologist Dennis Price’s study were verified firsthand.

Viewing an active sinkhole just a few feet from the proposed pipeline route

Viewing an active sinkhole just a few feet from the proposed pipeline route

Commissioner Fleming and Jessica Norfleet both voiced their appreciation for the opportunity to see this environmentally sensitive area that Sabal Trail proposes to cross.  They stated their commitment to bring these public concerns to the attention of the Suwannee Board of County Commissioners and Congressman Ted Yoho.

Deanna and Chris Mericle