FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Florida Drops All Charges Against the 14 Gilchrist County Sabal Trail Protesters
Valdosta, July 17, 2017 — Eight months after she and a dozen other people were unnecessarily arrested for holding signs on a public road, WWALS member Cindy Noel reports:
“All charges against those who protested the Sabal Trail Pipeline in Gilchrist County, Florida, on November, 12, 2016, have now been dropped, except for those who were intimidated into accepting plea bargains. Karrie Ford, Jodi Wheeler, Panagioti Tsolkas, Cindy Noel, Allie McDaniel, Alayna Erhard, Felicia Sobieski, Jordan Lacie, Josh Weber, and Nicole Williams were all facing Felony Trespassing on a Construction Site and Disorderly Conduct charges for speaking out against the Sabal Trail Pipeline. The reason cited by the State of Florida when it filed its NOLLE PROSEQUI action was “Insufficient Evidence to Sustain a Prosecution.”
Photo: Cindy Noel. Left to right: David Hensley, Josh Birmingham, Michael Roth (not arrested, left early), Jodi Wheeler, Alayna Erhard, Stephan Barron, Karrie Ford, Felicia Sobieski, Allie McDaniel, Josh Weber, Jordan Lacie, Nicole Williams
“These exaggerated charges were intended to intimidate the protestors against further actions, many of them being at their very first action. No Contact orders between codefendants further inhibited the organizing of future events, placing the protesters in a position of being arrested again if ANY contact were made before trial.
“Since the Sabal Trail Pipeline is now partially operational, Gilchrist County Prosecutors have dropped all these charges. The timing of these actions begs to question who our government and law enforcement are really “serving and protecting”, its own citizens or corporate interests.”
The Florida State Attorney’s letter dated July 14, 2017, dropping the charges against defendant Cynthia Lynn Noel for protesting at the Sabal Trail horizontal directional drilling (HDD) site in Gilchrist County, Florida is online here: /?attachment_id=35315
Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman adds:
“It shouldn’t have taken that long for the First Amendment and free speech to win. Similar charges against people arrested in January at the Sabal Trail Suwannee River crossing site in Suwannee County were dropped back in April. None of them should ever have been arrested. The State of Florida wasted massive resources protecting an invading pipeline from Texas and Alberta instead of protecting the waters, land, and people of Florida.”
Meanwhile, the highest-profile pipeline of all has run into trouble, as The Wall Street Journal reported two weeks ago: “A New Problem for Keystone XL: Oil Companies Don’t Want It: After weathering years of protests, pipeline operator TransCanada is struggling to attract customers amid low crude prices and competing oil-transportation options.”
The fossil fuel companies are getting desperate after many pipeline projects have been cancelled. Examples include two by Kinder Morgan (KMI): its $1 billion petroleum products Palmetto Pipeline that would have run from South Carolina across the Georgia coast to Jacksonville, and KMI’s $3.3 billion Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline that would have run from New York State through Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Upstream from Sabal Trail, Transco’s Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline still hasn’t been built. It would feed Marcellus Shale fracked gas all the way through Transco, Sabal Trail, and FSC, and liquid natural gas (LNG) liquefaction plants to Miami for overseas export. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is still evaluating Atlantic Sunrise, and now nuns have built a chapel in its path while a judge has declined to give Atlantic Sunrise immediate possession.
Interstate natural gas pipelines are permitted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC is wholly funded by fees and charges on the same companies it supposedly regulates, which may help explain why FERC has only denied one pipeline in the past thirty years. Even that record of rubber stamps is not good enough for the fossil fuel companies.
There is a bill in Congress right now, H.R. 2910, which would further abbreviate and obfuscate the state and federal permitting process that already failed in the case of Sabal Trail. H.R. 2910 has already been reported out of the House Energy Commerce Committee and could be voted on by the full House as early as this week.
The Suwannee Riverkeeper said:
“Everyone please ask your Congress members to vote against H.R. 2910. You can also sign onto Delaware Riverkeeper’s convenient letter of support for this action.”
For more that you can do to continue to oppose Sabal Trail and other pipelines like it, see /issues/stt/how-you-can-help-stop-sabal-trail/.
Remember the Gilchrist Fourteen and all the many organizations and individuals who have fought the Sabal Trail pipeline boondoggle through protests, legal actions, letters, and other means. Let their efforts not be in vain.
WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) advocates for conservation and stewardship of the Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little, and Suwannee River watersheds in south Georgia and north Florida through education, awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen activities. WWALS incorporated in 2012. WWALS has opposed the unnecessary, destructive, and hazardous Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline since 2013, including a legal action, WWALS vs. Sabal Trail & FDEP (October 2015). WWALS has promoted clean, renewable solar power longer than that.
About Suwannee Riverkeeper:
John S. Quarterman is the Suwannee Riverkeeper®, which is a staff position and a project of WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) as the Member of the Waterkeeper® Alliance for the Suwannee River basin.
(pictured with Mike Roth)
846 NW 120th Trail
Branford, FL 32008
WWALS Watershed Coalition
P.O. Box 88
Hahira, GA 31632
John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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