How Dakota pipeline firm also threatens Louisiana


There was some very good news this week on the environmental front, for a change. At a moment when things looked darkest for the stirring protest movement against the Dakota Access pipeline — with a brutal winter bearing down on the rural North Dakota protest site and authorities threatening to clear out their encampment — there was a dramatic reversal of fortune. Army officials stepped in to block completion of the critical section of the pipeline that would cross under the Missouri River, the main source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux. This doesn’t resolve the matter, unfortunately. The incoming president-elect, Donald Trump, supports the pipeline and will surely push to have this decision overturned. But for now, the resolve of the Sioux people, other tribes, and their many allies, including hundreds of military veterans, has brought a remarkable victory for people power over a hardened establishment.

The Dakota Access protesters were fighting not only for tribal rights, but for something else that directly affects all of us: Ending America’s addiction to fossil fuels, and winning the fight against global warming, The $3.8 billion project aims to send millions of barrels of fracked oil from  North Dakota around the globe, and the dangerous tentacles of this project are broader than many people realize. In fact, the oil that would start its journey through the Dakota Access pipeline would ultimately pose a threat to the sensitive bayous and wetlands of Louisiana as well:

But the same company that’s building the Dakota Access Pipeline wants to build a 162-mile pipeline that would cut through the Atchafalaya Basin and 11 Louisiana parishes, including Lafayette, just south of Youngsville.

Environmental groups, some landowners and concerned citizens are quietly building resistance to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline project, gathering thousands of signatures from as far away as New Zealand and South Africa, forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to call for a public hearing where they plan to demand a thorough environmental impact assessment of the project.

Cherri Foytlin, of Rayne, a Native American who spent time with the North Dakota pipeline protesters, believes the Dakota movement may be inspiring people in Louisiana, where the oil and gas industry still reigns, to demand protection for their environment, too. “Enough is enough,” she said. “At what point do we draw the line and say we’re not going to be the energy sacrifice area for this nation anymore?”

The oil for this project would originate in the Dakotas:

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the DAPL, owns Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC, the company whose name appears on the Louisiana pipeline permit applications. Energy Transfer and Sunoco already built a pipeline from Nederland to Lake Charles. Now they want to extend it from Calcasieu Parish through Jefferson Davis, Acadia, Vermilion, Lafayette, Iberia, St. Martin, Iberville, Ascension and Assumption parishes, ending on the west bank of New Orleans near St. James. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would provide a connection between the North Dakota oilfields and Louisiana’s refineries and ports.

This project is a travesty. It threatens to tear up the Atchafalaya Basin after a long era in which Louisiana has lost many square miles of its priceless wetlands to oil and gas exploration and production. The excavation work for this project will disrupt fishing and other local activities. And, needless to say, the pipeline poses the risk of a major spill in a corner of the world that is still struggling to recover from the 4 million barrels of oil unleashed from BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010.

“One thing BP taught us is how fragile the wetlands are,” the activist Foytlin told the Daily Advertiser newspaper. “How much tax dollars are we spending to allow companies to come in and destroy it?” I could not agree with this more. Much like the more highly publicized Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline threatens our drinking water, perpetuates global warming, and profits a few insiders at the expense of the everyday people who live in Louisiana. Local officials would be wise to block this project before it ever gets started.

Read more about the Bayou Bridge pipeline proposal in the Daily Advertiser:

Learn more about the need for worldwide action on fossil fuels in my new book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on America

© Stuart H. Smith, LLC 2016 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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