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Sabal Trail Pipeline Protesters To Sen. Bill Nelson: Acknowledge Us

Protesters outside Sen. Bill Nelson's office in Coral Gables on Tuesday demanded a response to their petition against the Sabal Trail Pipeline.
Kate Stein
Protesters outside Sen. Bill Nelson's office in Coral Gables on Tuesday demanded a response to their petition against the Sabal Trail Pipeline.

Just days after a federal judge denied another attempt by protesting Native American tribes in North Dakota to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, South Florida has its own pipeline protest going on.

About 30 protesters on Tuesday called for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to take action against the Sabal Trail Pipeline, a 515-mile pipeline that would carry natural gas from Alabama down to north Florida. They stationed themselves in front of the Democratic senator's Coral Gables office around noon, demanding Nelson respond to a letter and petition they delivered in December.

In 2014, Nelson was one of the deciding votes against the Keystone XL Pipeline that would have run from Canada to Nebraska.

"We know he's against pipelines," said Deborah Dion, one of the protest organizers, "but he's been silent on this issue."

"He's getting campaign contributions from Florida Power and Light and their parent company," Dion continued. "We think that's why he's being silent."

Nelson's campaigns have received $73,250 from Florida Power and Light's parent company, NextEra Energy, over the course of his career. That's according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit, non-partisan group that tracks campaign contributions.

Data was not immediately available for campaign contributions from Florida Power and Light itself, nor from Duke Energy of Florida. Both companies stand to benefit from the pipeline, according to the website of the company overseeing the project.

That company, Sabal Trail Transmission, is a joint venture among NextEra Energy, Duke Energy and Spectra Energy Partners.

The pipeline project will "increase energy diversity, security and reliability to these Southeast markets," according to the Sabal Trail Transmission  website. The website says a study by the economic consulting firm Fishkind & Associates shows pipeline construction in Florida will create about 2,709 jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity.

Protester Gloria Pierce says she’s concerned about chemical leaks from the pipeline.

"The water that gets damaged because of these chemicals... it’s going to flow down," she said. "The fact that I'm around here, in Miami, doesn't matter. It's going to affect all of us whether it's up north or down here in the south."

Nelson was not at his Coral Gables office on Tuesday afternoon. But a staff assistant told protesters Nelson did receive the petition and letter delivered late last year. The protesters then asked to set up a meeting with the senator and the assistant gave them contact information for his staff.

Another protest against the Sabal Trail Pipeline is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Wayne Huizenga Park in Fort Lauderdale.

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.