The Sabal Trail Pipeline is a project undertaken by Spectra Energy, NextEra and Duke Energy to transport gas through a 515-mile pipe that crosses Alabama, Georgia and Florida, expected to be completed in June 2017. Just like it happened in North Dakota, local activists and water protectors from all across the country have started organizing the resistance setting up camp in Live Oak and staging protests all around Florida. The 2017 political calendar starts with one item on the agenda: water.
While we all understand the necessity for energy projects to fuel industries and innovation, there is a remarkable effort by corporations to block an informed scientific debate over the environmental impacts of fracking. The report of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (1) highlights the lack of transparency by the energy sector to make public information needed for objective assessments, such as measurements of chemical levels, restricted access to well sites and limited data provided by industry and government officials. Further, the report documents a number of cases where corporations have interfered directly with government science and academic reports, including an outstanding case where the Environmental Protection Agency had to drop contamination charges in Texas because the company threatened EPA officials to not cooperate with another fracking-related study. In another impressive case of corporate influence over science, a study published by the University of Austin titled Fact-Based Regulation for Environmental Protection in Shale Gas Development was later found to be written by a paid collaborator of the fracking industry.
In Florida, however, the science is less controversial. The aquifer that provides us with drinking water stands over limestone –a particularly unstable rock formation that has caused thousands of sinkholes over the years. The very description of sinkholes by the U.S Geological survey (2) signals to the risks of groundwater pumping of water; we do not have to be experts to imagine what would happen if a sinkhole breaks one of the pipes of Sabal Trail.
The opposition to this environmental threat has been gaining momentum with 85,000 + signatures delivered to senator Bill Nelson´s office last week and dozens of protests staged on last week of December. The fight for water has just begun, we all need to organize.