LIVE OAK, Fla. -- Congressman Ted Yoho of Florida’s 3rd district joined local property owners, concerned citizens, county commissioners, and environmental groups for a tour of the proposed route of the Sabal Trail fracked-gas pipelineon Sunday, which will impact over 940 acres of wetlands and put the drinking water for nearly 10 million Floridians at risk. Short of stopping the pipeline altogether, Congressman Yoho joined his constituents in calling for the US Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an additional environmental impact study.
“Before the pipeline moves forward, the discrepancies in the buffer between the pipeline and sensitive structures need to be revisited. Structures like active sinkholes and karsts are within 10 feet of the proposed pipeline and they were reported to be no closer than 750 feet. Also, it was stated that the ceiling of Falmouth Cathedral Cave System was 100 feet below the land surface. However, it's reported that it is within 30 feet of the land surface in some areas. Our willingness to work together to answer these questions will help us to preserve Florida's unique environment. The decisions we make today and in the near future will need to serve the environmental and energy needs of Florida for the next 75-100 years.” said Congressman Yoho.
On May 31st, 2015, a pipeline managed by Spectra Energy, the same company responsible for Sabal Trail, exploded under the Arkansas River in Little Rock, Arkansas. Over 700 pipeline incidents causing 19 fatalities occurred in 2014 alone. If the Sabal Trail pipeline is allowed to move forward, Floridians will face these same threats.
"The Sabal Trail pipeline is a clear example of how we can't trust the oil and gas industry to protect our air, water, and public health," said Jennifer Rubiello, director of Environment Florida. "Especially here in the Sunshine State, we need to be moving away from dirty fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy like solar and wind."
The Sabal Trail pipeline will carry methane gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking," a dangerous drilling process that involves injecting water, chemicals and sand into horizontal wells under high pressure to crack rock and release oil and gas. Sabal Trail has yet to address the potential for the high-pressure pipeline to burst in or under the Floridian Aquifer—the main water supply for the entire state of Florida.
“The pipeline is a problem because the geology underground is a delicate balance of sinkholes and limestone formations,” said geologist Dennis Price. “This pipeline will likely cause more sinkholes as well as cause the caves beneath the surface to collapse, putting Floridians’ drinking water at risk”.
“I’m thankful that Representative Yoho shares our concerns about the risks the pipeline poses, and is committed to holding Spectra Energy accountable for protecting our land and water,” said Chris Mericle, resident of Hamilton County.
Concerned citizen Dave Shields lives a quarter mile away from a proposed compressor station, a service annex of the pipeline. Compressor stations are not only noisy and destructive, they also have the potential to leak methane gas and cause an explosion.
“This pipeline puts profit over people”, said Shields. “I’m not looking forward to all of the exhaust and fumes that my home and my family will be exposed to because of these compressor stations.”
The local landowners, concerned citizens, and environmental groups were also joined by a representative from United States Senator Bill Nelson’s office.
“I'm looking forward to sharing the widespread opposition to the pipeline with Senator Nelson,” said Mary Louise Hester, Regional Director for Senator Nelson.
The hike to the proposed route was organized by WWALS Watershed Coalition, Our Santa Fe River, SpectraBusters, Sierra Club Suwannee-St. Johns Chapter, Earth Ethics, Gulf Restoration Network, Environment Florida, Environment Georgia and the Clean Water Network.