The Army Corps of Engineers recently approved the construction of the Sabal Trail pipeline, which will run through conservation areas and under rivers in large parts of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
The US Army Corps of Engineers finalized permits earlier this month for a $3.2 billion natural gas pipeline that will span 516 miles, crossing through the majority of Florida as well as large swaths of Georgia and Alabama. The pipeline project is owned by the Sabal Trail partnership, composed of Houston-based Spectra Energy, North Carolina’s Duke Energy, and NextEraEnergy, the parent company of Florida Power & Light (FPL). Last autumn, the EPA estimated that nearly 1,200 acres would be totally destroyed or severely impacted during the pipeline’s construction. Following industry pressure, the EPA reduced its projection and dropped some its more significant environmental concerns. However, for those who live in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, the numerous environmental risks persist.
The pipeline will carry natural gas extracted via hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is commonly called. This method of gas extraction is highly damaging to the environment as the wells often leak, permanently contaminating the drinking water in the area. Natural gas leaks are highly toxic to wildlife as well as people and can cause entire rivers to become flammable. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop the Army Corps of Engineers from approving the pipeline’s route, which will cross through conservation areas, under rivers, near natural springs, and through the karst geological areas.
The karst geological areas are sinkhole-vulnerable due to the presence of underground caverns, meaning that this section of the pipeline will be especially prone to ruptures and leaks. The construction permits from the pipeline.
The pipeline marks a long-term trend in Florida where environmental regulations are ignored in efforts to benefit corporations over local populations. Earlier this year, Florida’s Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 to pass new water quality standards that raised the allowable levels for more than 25 cancer-causing chemicals that fracking wells will dump into the state’s rivers and streams. One of the chemicals was benzene, a known carcinogen, whose allowable level in drinking water is now triple the previous limit.
The Sabal Trail pipeline will also benefit from these drinking water deregulations as it will pass through the Florida aquifer, which supplies most of Florida’s drinking water. Any potential leaks from the pipeline would further damage the aquifer as it was recently contaminated by radioactive wastewater by Mosaic Co. Considering that Florida, just this year, has been the victim of nuclear power plant leaks, record red tides, and green sludge filling its rivers, its already damaged ecosystem probably can’t take much more. Neither can Georgia and Alabama as they just had a major gas pipeline rupture earlier this month, that leaked over 250,00 gallons of gasoline before it was sealed. When will people begin to stand up for the land instead of short-term profit?
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