A group of environmental activists gathered in Williams Park across from Duke Energy on Thursday to send a message: Stop the Sabal Trail pipeline.
The protest was spearheaded by volunteers from Greenpeace St. Pete and the Sierra Club. The St. Petersburg rally was one of five across the state Thursday. Others were scheduled in Miami, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Orlando.
The 515-mile long pipeline starts in Alabama, crosses Georgia and will end in central Florida. It’s designed to bring natural gas to the needs of Florida Power and Light and Duke Energy of Florida by the end of June next year. Already under construction, the pipeline is scheduled to be completed by June.
The underground pipeline, a joint venture of Spectra Energy Corp., NextEra Energy and Duke Energy, will carry natural gas. It’s a pipeline that Spectra says will be safe.
But those who spoke at Thursday’s gathering said that’s not the case. The pipeline does not carry pure natural gas, instead it carries fracked gas, they said. Fracked gas is pumped into pipelines at high pressures, making leaks, breakages or collapsed pipes more likely.
That, could be devastating for Florida because the pipeline will go through limestone substrate and the Florida aquifer, which supplies drinking water to 10 million people. Leaking, breaking or collapsing would mean the gas would get into the groundwater and ruin drinking water for millions. It could also destroy the soil.
“All pipelines leak,” one speaker said, adding, “we are literally on top of Swiss cheese.”
Speakers urged the crowd not only to air their grievances against Duke and the other partners in the pipeline but also against the banks that are lending money to finance the drilling. Among those banks are Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.
Speakers urged the group to divest by taking their money out of those banks and letting the bankers know that’s why they were closing accounts.
After the speakers had finished, the crowd marched a one and a half mile route that took them to St. Petersburg City Hall. They also planned to pass several of those banks where they would use a special chant: “Defund, divest, people power at its best.”