The Sabal Trail pipeline has earned the ire of folks across three states, and yet construction is moving forward despite concerns about safety, contamination and property values in impacted communities.
Spectra Energy, one of the owners of the Sabal Trail pipeline, has had to answer for an explosion in the town of Salem in Pennsylvania earlier this year that sent a fireball hundreds of feet into the air, scorched acres and acres of farmland, and sent a man to the hospital with severe burns after this house caught fire.
NextEra Energy, Inc. and Duke Energy are the other two owners of the pipeline, which they hope to have up and running by May of next year (yes, May of 2017).
The Sabal Trail pipeline starts in Alabama, crosses through Georgia and ultimately brings natural gas to a Florida power plant for the benefit of Florida residents (although even many Floridians are also fighting against the pipeline). Georgia is just a throughway, and will not be receiving any natural gas from the pipeline.
Landowners fighting against the pipeline have found themselves outgunned, and eminent domain has been a powerful tool for the energy companies to get the rights to people’s land that they need to build the pipeline.
This all follows on the heels of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe successfully protesting the Dakota Access pipeline cutting through their lands, and earning an injunction against further construction. However, those protests were able to garner national media attention and thus national scrutiny, in addition to centering concerns about the U.S. government and U.S. corporations not respecting the autonomy and self-determination of native communities.
Environmental folks were successful earlier this year protecting Georgia’s sensitive waterways from the Sabal Trail pipeline, but those efforts have had a limited impact following lawsuits from the energy companies to get the rights-of-way they needed.
Landowners like James “Jeb” Bell of Mitchell County and Minnie Jackson of Albany, Ga. both have fought the pipeline coming into their community and onto their land.
Bell had a litany of concerns ranging from the safety of living near a three-foot wide, highly pressurized pipeline to the impact the project would have on the value of his property. He also had issues with a for-profit company using his land for their gain.
Meanwhile, Jackson has attended protests and meetings in her community, all to no avail.
Like their Florida counterparts, resistance to the pipeline is easily buried by corporate lawyers and big energy interests. They’ve fought, and so far they’ve lost.