Jan 31, 2017 - Sabal Trail Pipeline Resistance by Tabitha Milian
Standing Rock inspired the World. It’s hard to keep that in context, especially when you lived at the camp. Camp life felt like an alternate universe, a community of shared resources. Taking care of one another after facing off with sheriff’s, private security, and national guard was just another day. From this ongoing movement, that is currently still in resistance with Water Protectors faithfully keeping watch and even sacrificing their safety for Life Giving Water, resistance springs and wells up just as water springs from the earth.
An Elder at the Autonomous University in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, México told a group of us that were visiting, he said “if the People in the United States don’t resist and push back against capitalism; then the global struggle against capitalism will not work”. That means it is especially significant that we, as a life affirming people need to organize and we need to push back. We are literally living in the belly of the beast. That can look so many ways and we need all of our creative minds to come together and to strategize how we can be united and effective. A diversity of ways is necessary so that Humanity will win. We may not have the answers, but we must try, and if it doesn’t work, we try again until we find what does work and we build on our successes.
I have a connection to Florida, my Grandparents lived in southern Florida all my life until they left their bodies to go back home. My Grandma took my cousin and I to the beach as much as we wanted. She nurtured the love of nature within me, I learned to swim in the Gulf of Mexico, my fondest childhood memories are at the beaches in florida exploring and seeing animals and swimming in clear blue waters. Much has changed since the late 80’s and early 90’s and my favorite beaches are a shadow of the beauty they once were. So when I learned that the Sabal Trail Pipeline was being laid in alabama, through georgia, and down into Florida I was seriously disturbed.
A few things to know about Florida, there are 132 endangered and threatened species this includes fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds and invertebrates. That doesn’t even include the endangered and threatened plants, corals and crustaceans. Florida is also home to THE LARGEST concentration of natural springs in the world. In The World. The Floridan aquifer is huge covering almost all of florida as well as a good chunk of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. It is a water source for at least 10 million people and one of the MOST prolific aquifers in The World. The Floridan aquifer also wells upward into the Biscayne aquifer which supplies South Florida metropolitan area with its primary source of fresh water. The top part of the Biscayne aquifer is the water table, this aquifer is known as an unconfined aquifer. Since it merges with the floor of Biscayne Bay and with the Atlantic Ocean, it is also a coastal aquifer. Both of these factors contribute to its potential contamination. The aquifer is so close to the surface, this makes it extremely vulnerable to surface contaminants. In Northern Florida, along the route of the Sabal Trail Pipeline, it is an area known for developing large sinkholes, the ground is a very porous limestone and their is an extensive system of caves within the aquifer. These caves are world famous to spelunkers and divers all over the world.
While I was in Florida there was an article in the Alachua County Today newspaper and the headline read like this Pipeline leak leads to roadway collapse in Alachua that was jan 5th. And just a few days ago there was a sinkhole that happened in Live Oak, Fl that a large truck got stuck in. This is in the area where they are digging the pipeline, which is currently happening under the Suwannee River at the moment. On January 14th 300-450 community members gathered in Suwannee State Park in Live Oak, Florida. The park reached capacity for the first time ever and had to close the park to cars due to unavailability of parking. Many walked the 3.5 miles through the park past the drill site and in front of the easement of the pipeline. It was so important to have so many people actually see the drill site, it does change you to see and hear the what is being done to the Earth in order for these companies to make money off of destruction. Folks blocked the easement for hours playing instruments, singing, sharing words and more than 10 folks locked down to each other. There were no arrests and many of the folks that came out, it was there first action that they had been to. The success left folks with an energy to do more to protect the water. For Martin Luther King Day two Water Protectors locked themselves down to a water truck that would have gone into the drill site. Without the water trucks bringing in water the drill is not able to be used. I would like to acknowledge that those two Water Protectors are fellow Cubans, we come from resistance it is in our blood. That day work was successfully stopped for hours. Unfortunately the Sabal Trail Pipeline is now complete under the Suwannee River. This pipeline is not all the way complete, it is slated for completion within the next six months. The company Spectra has been working on this pipeline in multiple sites at the same time. Resistance is picking up here and multiple camps are forming along the pipeline route.
Spectra the company responsible for the Sabal Trail pipeline has been around for a while, and has had numerous infractions, as well as pipes exploding or leaking. They are notorious for not maintaining and keeping an eye on their pipelines. Spectra had 187 accidents relating to its pipelines from 2010-2014. Spectra says it aims to supply the growing demands of Florida’s natural gas use. Florida is #2 in natural gas use in the country, but even the projections seem larger than an increase in natural gas use in Florida. Which brings us to a larger trend and potential for this fracked gas pipeline, domestic non-renewable resources are a focus for export, which is all for the sake of economy. These pipelines don’t create a lot of long term jobs. Spectra spouts that they are creating lots of jobs with the construction of the pipeline, but in reality they are creating less than 300 temporary jobs and most of those jobs aren’t even going to the people in the counties that the pipeline is going through. The pipelines route currently has a school along side it in Gilchrist County, it is within the blast zone of the pipeline, should the pipeline leak or explode, this school and all of its children’s lives are being gambled with.
Florida Governor Rick Scott perhaps was swayed to approve the project because of the $108,000 investment he once made in Spectra Energy. Nextera Energy, 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. Spectra Energy are also being sued by Sierra Club and over 150 lawsuits from private landowners that had their land taken by way of eminent domain; and others for failing to adequately analyze potential impacts to nearly 700 bodies of water, 1,958 wetland systems, drinking water supplies that serve nearly 10 million people and climate change impacts. Florida has been identified as one of the most vulnerable locations in the world to the effects of global warming. But Governor Rick Scott won’t even allow state employees, like Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) who approved Sabal, to even use the term “climate change.”
Divestment from the companies that invest in these pipelines is key. Divest your portfolio, change your bank to a credit union, and let’s learn and apply alternatives to energy now. We also are in need of a major lifestyle reality check. We cannot keep living in comfort without having a major effect on the natural environment. We have to change the way we live, and it will be our creativity that will pave the way for it.
Sacred Water Camp, is a camp in the town of Live Oak. Composed mainly of allies there is a growing need for more resistance camps. I spent about 10 days at this camp and it was composed of about 30 or so people. The camp was projected to grow after the action jan. 14th. I spoke with many local folks and they are very committed and invested in protecting the natural springs that the Sabal Trail Pipeline is threatening. The range of folks invested are youth to elders and everyone in between, time after time there were stories recounted of memories made in the local natural springs. There was word that as many as 4 more camps are slated to pop up further down the projected path. As far as we can see resistance camps are how we push back and flex our collective strength. In collective work we have great potential to to share our experiences and help each other grow our analyses of what liberation is. January has seen and will continue to see many actions to stop the Sabal Trail Pipeline.
Digitized map of sabal trail pipeline http://www.wwals.net/?p=22570
Sacred Water Camp https://www.facebook.com/sacredwatercamp/
More camps in Florida https://stopsabaltrailpipeline.blogspot.com/p/spirit-camps.html
More info to Stop Sabal Trail Pipeline https://stopsabaltrailpipeline.blogspot.com/
by Tabitha Milian