As protesters at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline make their last stand against police crackdowns ordered by North Dakota’s governor to evacuate their campsites, protesters in Florida are also continuing their fight against another contentious pipeline.
Orlando Weekly reported two protesters, Nicolas Segal-Wright, 26, and Karrie Kay Ford, 29, were arrested Wednesday after placing themselves 250-feet into a segment of the Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline, a joint project between Spectra Energy Corp., NextEra Energy Inc., and Duke Energy. Marion County Sheriff’s office said Segal-Wright and Ford used a “device to lock each other up making it harder for law enforcement to get to them.”
The two protesters also released a statement saying, “We are taking action against the Sabal Trail pipeline because we don’t need more energy infrastructure poisoning this land. The world and our future generations are at risk, so we are demanding the immediate halt to this toxic project.”
“We’re staying here,” Ford said in a video recorded from inside the pipeline. “We are locking down. We’re not going anywhere.”
Ford said police aggressively attempted to remove her from the pipeline. “They’re banging on the pipeline with hammers,” she said in her video. “And they’re sending dogs to the entrance of the pipeline, threatening to send the dogs in. They’re threatening with tear gas. So just hold tight and, like, spread the word. Spread the word far and wide. And keep supporting us, and we’ll see if we can get you updates.”
Marion County Fire Rescue performed a “confined space rescue” to remove the protesters. Both Segal-Wright and Ford are accused of felony charges, including grand theft between $20,000 to $100,000, trespassing on a posted construction site and criminal mischief. Ford was additionally charged with resisting without violence for refusing to take a device off her arm that briefly stopped deputies from arresting her. The Star-Banner says the duo was using “devices common in protests that included PVC pipe, chicken wire, tape and bolts, and, in the case of Ford, a plastic bin filled with concrete.”
“Both defendants temporarily deprived the construction company from the use of their pipeline, justifying the grand theft charge,” the Sheriff’s Office says.
Though the pipeline companies in charge of the Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline tout the project, claiming it will provide ample energy and economic benefits to the region, the 515-mile pipeline has faced previous protests over environmental concerns. According to the Ocala Star Banner, “the pipeline is a 515-mile, $3.2 billion endeavor that will snake through Alabama, Georgia and much of Florida, including through Marion County, while crossing 699 bodies of water along the way.” The Banner said, “Officials with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission once shared concerns over the pipeline’s effect on the environment and karst terrain, but later flipped and approved it.”
The Anti Media reported surrounding communities have also complained of the pipeline companies’ use of eminent domain to obtain property for the pipeline. Spectra Energy Corp., NextEra Energy Inc. (owner of FPL) and Duke Energy filed 160 lawsuits last year in attempts to seize 25 properties in Central Florida and 135 in Southeast Florida. The pipeline has also been criticized for Governor Rick Scott’s 2013 passage of two bills apparently intended to speed up the pipeline, a move considered suspicious because the governor had a stake in Spectra Energy when he approved the laws.
Opposition to the Sabal pipeline has not received as much media attention as Dakota Access protests, but there is opposition, like Ford and Segal-Wright’s demonstration Wednesday.
With Trump’s silencing of the EPA, it is likely these types of protests will continue and grow, regardless of Trump’s approval of increased violence toward peaceful protesters.
(Article By Jeremiah Jones)