In central Florida, a controversial natural gas pipeline was the target of a lone gunman on Sunday, after months of being targeted by environmentalists in the central Florida locale of Marion County. According to the local sheriff, citizens reported that a man was shooting at the Sabal Trail pipeline, which is still under construction along Highway 200 in Dunnellon. Once he was spotted, the man fled in a pickup truck and led officers on a high-speed chase into neighboring Citrus County before crashing alongside of a road adjacent to Floral City Park. It was there that the suspect engaged in fire with sheriff’s deputies and a state trooper, and was killed as a result.
So far, authorities have not released the deceased suspect’s name nor have they acknowledged any connection to a wider group or cause. Citrus County Sheriff Mike Prendergast released a statement, verified by a witness, that the suspect was firing an assault-type long gun and to have heard 150 shots or more. “We know that the suspect was armed and extremely dangerous, and pending the examination of the evidence at the scene, we will be able to determine what other weapons he had in his possession at the time of the shooting,” Prendergast said in a statement. The officers involved have been put on administrative leave, pending an investigation.
Once it is finished, the Sabal Trail Transmission pipeline is forecast to move one billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Alabama, through Georgia and into Florida. The line will be more than 500 miles long. Half of it will traverse Florida and through 12 of its counties. The pipeline project is due to be finished by June and at a cost of $3.2 billion. Environmentalists have asserted that the Sabal pipeline may endanger the essential Florida Aquifer, which provides over half of state’s drinking water. There are those that compare it to the equally controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which, after months of protests and contention, is finally moving ahead after protesters were moved off a disputed parcel of land under which the pipeline would go. On Monday, protesters gathered to register their opposition to the Sabal pipeline after the shootout.
Last week, two protesters affiliated with the Sabal Trail Resistance were arrested by local authorities after they had holed up inside of the unfinished pipe. There is a link on the Sabal Trail Resistance webpage to a webpage that announces an “action camp,” where protest techniques are taught to protesters. The event was scheduled over February 23-27, during which time the shooting in Citrus County took place. The camp took place on public land at the Richloam Wildlife Management Area of the Green Swamp region in central Florida. Courses including training in “soft” and “technical blockades,” “direct action,” “media/talking points,” and “action roles.” Donations to the camp, the webpage states, are tax deductible.