With the Dakota Access Pipeline still fresh in many of our minds, it is important to build on the momentum of the #NoDAPL movement and educate people about other pipelines currently being built in the United States. One such pipeline is the Sabal Trail pipeline in Florida. It is a 515 mile natural gas pipeline that will transport 1 billion cubic feet per day of pressurized natural gas in steel pipes up to 48 inches in diameter beginning in June 2017. The major players are NextEra Energy, Inc.; Duke Energy; and Spectra Energy Corp.
There are currently 4 interstate natural gas pipelines in Florida:
- Florida Gas Transmission Company, LLC- the largest pipeline in the state with a 3.1 billion cubic feet per day capacity
- Gulfstream Natural Gas System, LLC- the second largest pipeline in the state with a 1.3 billion cubic feet per day capacity according to the Sabal website however the Gulf South Pipeline website noted that they have a throughput of 2.8 billion cubic feet per day
- Gulf South Pipeline Company, LP- 2.8 billion cubic feet per day
- Southern Natural Gas Company, LLC
What is natural gas?
It is important to discuss what exactly will be transported in these pipes. Natural gas is mainly methane and small amounts of hydrocarbons gas liquids and non hydrocarbon gases. It formed over millions of years from the remains of plants and animals that were compressed and heated.
How do we extract natural gas?
Geologists locate rock that is likely to contain natural gas (either on land or offshore) by using seismic surveys. After a survey is conducted, an exploratory well is drilled and, if there is sufficient natural gas present, one or more development wells are drilled. To remove the natural gas the rock formation is fractured by forcing water, chemicals, and sand down the development well (aka fracking).
One of the main issues with DAPL was the impact on crossing bodies of water- so how will the Sabal Trail Pipeline cross bodies of water?
- Open-Cut Wet-Ditch Method: digging an open trench on a stream bottom, lay the pipe, and backfill over it
- Open-Cut Dry-Ditch Method: using flume pipes to redirect the stream through the disturbed area, using sandbags to create dams both upstream and downstream of the work site, and excavate under the flume pipe
- Dam and Pump Around Method: using sandbags to construct dams upstream and downstream from the work area and then diverting stream flow around the work area using pumps and hoses
Where does radon come into the picture?
There is talk that natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region (in Pennsylvania) has unhealthy amounts of radon. According to the Sabal Trail website, radon is a naturally-occurring gas and there there has always been some level in all gas supplies.
John Hopkins researchers found that levels of radon in Pennsylvania homes have been on the rise since 2004, around the time that the fracking industry began drilling natural gas wells in the state. According to the study, 42 percent of radon readings in homes surpass what the U.S. government considers safe (which seems like a direct contradiction to the Sabal Trial website).
Can the Sabal Trail survey private land in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida without permission of the land owners?
The short answer is yes. The specific codes are:
- Alabama Code Section 18-1A-50 and 18-1A-51
- Georgia Statute O.C.G.A. 22-3-88
- Florida Statutes 472.029, 471.027, and 361.05
Mud Leak in South Georgia
In November of 2016, WFSU- a public media source for Northern Florida and Southern Georgia- reported that drilling was leaking mud into the Withlacoochee River which is a tributary to the Floridan aquifer. Mud seems innocuous enough in a river right? Problematically, the mud was described as a mixture of bentonite clay and water, but WWAL notes that bentonite can reduce oxygen in water which can threaten fish and other aquatic species.
Perspective of Andrea Grover- Sabal Trail Pipeline Representative
Grover notes that Sabal Trail will provide natural gas to Duke Energy’s new natural gas plant, which will allow Duke Energy to retire half of its coal-fired fleet in Florida in 2018.
She also notes that natural is lighter than air, so in the “unlikely event that it escapes from the pipeline” the gas would travel through the soil into the atmosphere and dissipate instead of traveling down through soils to water supplies. Unfortunately, this would only apply to the processed natural gas. Before the gas is processed there would be unprocessed gas transported which has the potential to pollute air and water.
Find Out More
If you are looking to find more information about the movement against the pipeline check out these resources and events.
Facebook Group Against the Sabal Trail
Gulf Restoration Network
Events in Florida
January 4th Jacksonville: https://www.facebook.com/events/1726891530959495/
January 4th St. Petersburg: https://www.facebook.com/events/1152663088182886/
January 5th Orlando: https://www.facebook.com/events/1227935277288761/
January 8th Orlando: https://www.facebook.com/events/1242274395865928/
January 10th High Springs: https://www.facebook.com/events/170364943439416/
January 13th Orlando: https://www.facebook.com/events/976474695818760/
January 14th and 15th Suwannee River State Park: https://www.facebook.com/events/1764465233879461/
January 20th: Statewide Day of Action Everywhere
January 23rd Tallahassee: https://www.facebook.com/events/1824996774404546/