Thousands Demand Florida Stop Sabal Pipeline as Native American Leader Speaks Out

Few energy projects in recent memory were more blatantly damaging and offensive than the Dakota Access Pipeline. After regulators worried the pipeline was too dangerous to pass near Bismarck, North Dakota, the pipeline was re-routed — straight into sacred Native American land.

After the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe basically stood up and politely said, "Hey, can you please respect our wishes just this one time?" cops responded by blasting freezing protesters with water cannons, blinding a woman with a teargas canister, and blowing another woman's arm to shreds with a grenade.

It's easy to feel some fatigue now that the months-long Standing Rock fight is finally over, but environmentalists in Florida can't rest easy yet: A separate pipeline, the Sabal Trail, may plow through Central Florida and across multiple rivers.

Now more than 3,500 people have signed a petition demanding the state take action to stop the line's construction. In addition, one of Florida's most prominent Native American leaders and environmentalists is now speaking out against the plan.

If the pipeline's construction continues, the project will stretch from Central Alabama, through Georgia, and down to the Orlando area. A trio of massive energy companies own the pipeline, including Spectra Energy, a company with a history of environmental accidents. (Florida Gov. Rick Scott so happens to have invested $108,000 in the company.) Florida Power and Light's parent company also owns a portion of the pipeline — if completed, the project will carry natural gas to an FPL plant.

The petition to stop the project was started by Tim Canova, the failed U.S. congressional candidate who now runs a political-action committee raising money for progressive politicos. Canova has morphed into one of the highest-profile liberal activists in South Florida, and now spends much of his time organizing community events.

"This pipeline will span more than 500 miles across Alabama, Georgia, and Florida," Canova wrote online two days ago. "It will run right by the Crystal River, a crucial sanctuary for endangered manatees, and the Suwannee River, also home to several endangered species. Not only that, but the pipeline’s construction could also damage the fragile limestone which surrounds the Floridan Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world."
After starting the petition two days ago, Canova spoke at a rally yesterday in Sarasota, Florida. Just before Canova spoke, Bobby C. Billie, leader of South Florida's Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal People, took the stand at the event. Billie's tribe is a smaller offshoot of Florida's Miccosukee tribe — Billie's tribe does not recognize the United States of America's legitimacy as a nation, and maintains that President James K. Polk gave most of Florida's land to his tribe in the 1800s.

In September, Billie — who routinely speaks out when he feels the natural environment is threatened — issued a statement opposing the Sabal Trail:
The Council of the Original Miccosukee Simanolee Nation Aboriginal Peoples, the Original Nation has great concern what they are going to do to us, and the Natural Areas, Natural Systems, and Wildlife with this so-called Sabal Trail Pipeline,

We have a prophesy telling us what is going to happen in the future. Today is the Future what the Elders were talking about.

Since the discovery of oil and gas, they have been drilling and pumping gas and oil, or drilling for water or digging up rock and minerals from pits, or digging for gold, diamonds, or other so-called precious stones. These actions are changing the Layer of the Earth or Layer of the different Energies of the Earth, and changes also occur after they get it out, and they are in the Air, which means, burning of oil and gas in power plants, burning of gas in vehicles, and airplanes, and in different industries - creating a so-called economy that is destroying the Future of the younger unborn human peoples’ needs.
Billie repeated much of his statement to the crowd in Sarasota yesterday:

Protest camps have sprung up in three cities — Fort Drum, Branford, and Live Oak. Though the camps aren't nearly the size of the one around Standing Rock, protesters still say they need supplies in order to keep fighting Florida's energy companies.
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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.

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