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Thursday, May 23, 2024

With Gainesville residents protesting oil pipelines Tuesday, we here at the Alligator thought we’d offer some insight into what’s going on in our beautiful state.

Sabal Trail Transmission is ready to start construction on a natural gas pipeline about 500 miles long that would run through Alabama, Georgia and Florida. It would carry more than 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas from Alabama each day ­— about 84 percent more natural gas than can be brought in by Florida’s current pipeline. Sabal Trail will supply gas to Florida Power and Light and Duke Energy of Florida. 

The pipeline is supposed to be up and running by May 2017, and it’s projected to create millions of jobs during its construction, a lot of revenue for the state and maybe lower electrical bills. Sounds wonderful, right? Except there’s one thing that won’t benefit from this extravagant pipeline: the environment.

Consider what’s more crucial to you: paying a few dollars less on your Gainesville Regional Utilities bill or breathing clean air?

Let’s look at just some of the issues the Environmental Protection Agency had with Sabal Trail — issues outlined almost a year ago in a 26-page letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission but ultimately got swept under some corporatist rug:

First, “significant environmental issues related to drinking water supplies.” The Floridan Aquifer, through which Sabal Trail would cut, is one of the highest-producing aquifers in the world. Depending on where you live, you could be one of the nearly 10 million people for whom the Floridan aquifer system is the primary source of drinking water. Now imagine this pipeline bursting, or even just springing a leak, as pipelines notoriously do. (Think British Petroleum. And Royal Dutch Shell. And Exxon.) Are you cool with buying jugs of water from Publix to shower with? Yeah, neither are we.

Second, “wetlands, conservation areas, environmental justice.” In Florida alone, the 3-foot-wide pipeline would cut through conservation areas that feature rivers and springs. Florida’s biodiversity is part of what makes this state like no other place in the world, and about 325 acres of its natural beauty, not to mention the habitats of endangered species and the economic benefit of natural areas, would be compromised if this pipeline didn’t operate perfectly. Even if it did, the installation process will wreak enough havoc for it to be a bad idea.

And if the possibilities of not being able to drink clean water or losing the chance to get drunk at the springs with your friends aren’t enough to convince you, how about forfeiting the right to breathe clean air? The third issue the EPA brought up was “air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.” Global warming, climate change, something Donald Trump doesn’t believe exists — whatever you want to call it — is happening now, so the whole “prevention of global warming” ship has pretty much sailed. The only thing we can do to keep it from literally killing us is to stop encouraging it. If we go through with the Sabal Trail pipeline, even more greenhouse gas emissions, which act as a heat trap, will be released into the atmosphere. If you think Florida is already scorching, wait until the summer of the year 2030.

For the Sunshine State, it may be too late to stop. But if Florida’s a lost cause, the same impacts can still be prevented in other states with proposed pipelines through natural areas, like the Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs from North Dakota to Illinois. Keystone XL pipeline’s permit got denied in June 2015, so we know it’s indeed possible to stop these environmentally damning pipelines in their tracks. Reach out to your own state representatives and those of affected states to let them know you won’t stand for the degradation of our country.

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