Florida Has Its Own Pipeline Scandal, and Protesters Are Asking for Supplies

On November 12, more than a dozen Americans were arrested for disrupting work at a natural-gas construction site. One man locked himself inside a tanker truck delivering water to the work area, and protesters say law enforcement officers punished a crew of demonstrators and arrested all 14 of them.

But that skirmish didn't occur in North Dakota, at the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest camp. The arrests were made outside Gainesville, Florida, as part of a parallel protest movement to stop a $3 billion, Gov. Rick Scott-approved pipeline from plowing across Alabama, Georgia, and Florida to deliver natural gas to the perpetually sketchy Florida Power & Light.

Today, as controversy around the #NoDAPL protests swell, demonstrators at some of Florida's growing protest camps — including one encampment in Live Oak, along the Suwannee River — are asking like-minded people for donations and supplies to combat the Sunshine State's very own pipeline scandal.

"Any contributions are welcome, either financially toward filling up empty propane tanks or in the form of canned goods and fresh vegetables," protester Michael Noll writes online. Noll did not immediately respond to a message from New Times.

Protesters at the Live Oak camp (dubbed the "Sacred Water Camp") are also taking cash donations online.
Given the legit controversy surrounding the Sabal Trail project, it's surprising the pipeline hasn't made bigger waves nationally. Governor Scott is backing the project despite the fact that one of the companies building the pipeline, Spectra Energy, has a long documented history of accidents. In Florida, "accidents" typically translate to "leaks into Florida's highly vulnerable drinking water supply."

Scott perhaps was swayed to approve the project because of the $108,000 investment he once made in Spectra Energy.

NextraEnergy, FPL's parent company, and Duke Energy, another one of the major so-called legalized monopoly energy companies in Florida, both own stakes in the pipeline and also happen to have donated heavily to both Scott's campaign and pretty much every Republican in the Florida Legislature.

If the project is completed, the Sabal Trail pipeline will run through 86 miles of central Alabama, 162 miles in Georgia, and a whopping 268 miles in Florida, ending near Orlando. The government has already seized 25 properties in Florida using eminent domain laws to make room for the trail.

Unlike the Dakota Access Pipeline, however, the Sabal Trail doesn't cut through sacred Native American land, which is perhaps why national activists haven't paid the project the same level of attention. However, the Sabal pipeline will cross the Santa Fe, Suwannee, and Withlacoochee Rivers, which contain invaluable stretches of vulnerable Florida wetlands.

Given the potential for environmental catastrophe, three campsites have sprung up in Florida: one in Live Oak and others in Fort Drum and Branford. All three have the backing of the Georgia-based citizens' group the Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy, as well as the WWALS Watershed Coalition, a group that sued to stop the Sabal Trail a year ago.

Here's a clip from the Live Oak camp in November:

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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.