• Streets closed during Sabal Trail Pipeline protest in San Marco

    By: Michael Yoshida , Action News Jax


    Protestors in Jacksonville rallied against a proposed natural gas pipe line on Thursday.

    The pipeline would carry fuel from Alabama to Florida. Protestors, who demonstrated in San Marco near Prudential Drive, said they are concerned that the pipeline could leave lasting environmental damage.

    “I have family, friends, my nieces are down here," protester Ben Weber said. "I’d like them to be able to grow up in the same springs, playing in the same river that I grew up without having to worry.”

    One concern for protestors is that the pipeline will harm the Floridan Aquifer that supplies drinking water to about 10 million people.

    "We have to be very careful what we do that effects ecologically sensitive areas such as Florida” protestor Gretchen Robinson said.

    Action News Jax received a statement from Spectra Energy, the company building the pipeline. It reads in part “Sabal Trail has been dedicated to mitigating impacts to Florida’s environment… an environmental impact statement also found it unlikely that Sabal Trail would impact springs or the Floridan Aquifer.”

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    But some people are still concerned. On Thursday, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office had to shut down streets in efforts to keep people safe during the protest.  

    “People can’t just have this attitude that we can have a party on the planet and just leave and leave it to others to pick up,” Robinson said.

    The full statement from Spectra Energy and Sabal Trail Transmission is below:

    Sabal Trail respects the right of individuals to peacefully protest and express their positions in public areas. It is our obligation to safely and securely construct and operate our facilities, and we can neither tolerate nor allow trespassing. We continue to implore peaceful protestors not to place themselves or our contractors in an unsafe situation.

    The project has been developed and evaluated publicly over the past three years to ensure that environmental permitting agencies, all levels of local, state and federal government, communities and landowners’ questions were addressed and impacts along the pipeline route minimized. Over this three year period, Sabal Trail hosted more than 50 open houses and public meetings in communities along the pipeline route and underwent a well-documented, comprehensive review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The environmental impacts of this project have been determined by Federal Energy FERC not to be significant and each of the federal and state authorizations for the construction and operation of this project are conditioned to protect the environment.

    Sabal Trail has been dedicated to mitigating impacts to Florida’s environment.  In fact, Sabal Trail employed expert regional geologists and engineers who have extensively evaluated the potential impacts to wetlands associated with construction and operation of the pipeline.  Sabal Trail is also well equipped to construct and operate the pipeline in karst areas.  Many large infrastructure projects, such as interstate highways, railroads, and cities, are already constructed through these same karst regions and have a much greater permanent impact and footprint than a pipeline. Even in the unlikely event that a sinkhole opens beneath the pipeline, the pipeline can safely span distances exceeding 100 feet. FERC’s final environmental impact statement (FEIS) also found it unlikely that Sabal Trail would impact springs or the Floridan Aquifer in the karst regions with its construction or operations.

    Sabal Trail is dedicated to the safe, reliable operation of facilities and the protection of the public, the environment and our employees. Natural gas pipelines monitor and control safety in many ways and use many different tools. Collectively, these tools make natural gas transmission pipelines one of the safest forms of energy transportation. Our safety programs are designed to prevent pipeline failures, detect anomalies, perform repairs and often exceed regulatory requirements. Once the facilities are placed in service, we will implement operations procedures designed to monitor the pipeline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we maintain the facilities per applicable federal and state regulations.

    Sabal Trail began negotiating for the necessary rights-of-way with landowners whose properties are crossed by the pipeline route in AL, GA and FL since September of 2014. All of Sabal Trail’s offers have been based on appraised values developed by independent licensed appraisers in each state. It’s important to note that we only utilize eminent domain as the very last resort. Eminent domain authority is granted to interstate pipeline companies by the Natural Gas Act following the issuance of a FERC Certificate which establishes the need and then only after the company is unable to reach agreement for  the necessary easement interest.  Sabal Trail successfully negotiated with 89% of the landowners and has access to all the necessary parcels.  Sabal Trail continues to work with the remaining landowners regarding the value of the easements.

    The Sabal Trail pipeline will provide an economic benefit to each county the pipeline crosses, as well as the region, by creating jobs and generating local revenue through taxes, as well as help meet the growing demand for clean-burning energy resources.

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