We now know who fired shots into the Sabal Trail pipeline in Marion County this weekend and was then chased and killed by officers. Citrus County deputies say 66-year-old James Marker was ultimately stopped in Floral City, and when he aimed his weapon at officers, both deputies and FHP troopers fired back..
The incident is shining a spotlight on the Sabal Trail project, which runs through Alabama, Georgia and Florida. In our area, the pipeline goes through the heart of Citrus County and butts into the edge of Polk County.
Adam Dubbin is an environmentalist spending a lot of time in central Florida these days, documenting construction of the Sabal Trail transmission line. He's hearing from a lot of locals, who are worried about the impact this 515-mile natural gas pipeline.
"It's just ridiculous and we're all going to be here to fight it," one woman said.
For months, a grassroots effort to oppose the pipeline has been growing. People are concerned about impacts to water, and even burial sites. There's also frustration that more than 160 properties were taken through eminent domain to build the pipeline.
"We feel like we're being put in a position where we have nothing to gain, but everything to lose by this," said Adam Dubbin with Save Florida Waters Now.
The pipeline's developers issued the following statement:
"The current natural gas pipeline infrastructure in Florida is either fully or near fully utilized and isn’t adequate to meet increased demand for natural gas in Central and South Florida. Florida Power & Light (FPL) and Duke Energy are the primary customers or "anchor shippers" on the Sabal Trail Project. Their goal is to lower emissions, provide increasingly clean natural gas-fueled power plants and decrease customer bills. As one of the largest projects under construction in the industry, both FPL and Duke Energy will receive stable, reliable and low-cost natural gas supply from Sabal Trail.
Sabal Trail is committed to protecting the environment. Wherever possible, the new pipeline will follow existing rights-of-way to substantially limit environmental impacts and effects to landowners. These efforts are closely monitored by federal and state environmental agencies, requiring a number of permits, and we closely adhere to all applicable environmental standards to ensure we minimize our footprint.
Sabal Trail has been evaluating proposed routes, design and construction methods and potential impacts on community members and the environment since June 2013. Over this 3+ years of discussions, surveys, studies, permitting and planning, Sabal Trail feels it has developed a balanced plan for the route, construction techniques, and measures to avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts. Numerous routes changes and reroutes have been implemented based on work with the landowners, our survey work and data collection. Wherever possible, the new pipeline follows existing rights-of-way to substantially limit environmental impacts and effects to landowners. These efforts are closely monitored by federal and state environmental agencies, requiring a number of permits, and we closely adhere to all applicable environmental standards to ensure we minimize our footprint. Environmental aspects of the construction project are regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”), who review all plans and conduct its own environmental study of the project.
The permitting and scoping process for the project has been a lengthy and public one. There were communications, comment periods, face to face and public meetings with landowners, community members and public officials, filings on the FERC docket by Sabal Trail and outside parties, placement of the FERC application and mapping in pubic locations, etc. Some stakeholders did raise questions and concerns during the permitting process. These have been vetted and addressed by Sabal Trail or the federal and state agencies. At this time, Sabal Trail has received all the necessary approvals from FERC, the United States Army Corps of Engineers and numerous state permitting agencies including Florida Department of Environmental Protection."
Since President Trump's supported similar projects, and Sabal Trail is slated to be done this summer, the efforts of protestors here in Florida, might not mean much--at least for now.
"They may get the pipeline in..they probably will. But even if they do, it doesn't mean we've lost. It means we know where we are in the fight for our water. And hopefully it will help us mobilize more people, and get more people to pay attention," Dubbin said.
That's important because other pipelines will likely stem from this one, and Dubbin hopes everyone will take time to learn about what could be coming to your backyard.
Several environmental groups have condemned the actions of the man who shot into the pipeline, and insist they will continue peaceful protests only. If you'd like to learn more about the opposition's efforts, head here. To learn more from the developer's perspective, head here.
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