A month after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, opponents of another proposed pipeline through Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin vow to halt its construction, starting with a vocal protest at the public meeting attended by the Corps on Jan. 12 in Baton Rouge.
“We assume a pipeline permit will be granted,” Dean Wilson, executive director of the non-profit environmental group Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, told Occupy.com. Nevertheless, he said that what gets stated at the hearing will likely preview the group's next legal step: a suit brought by Atchafalaya Basinkeeper against the Corps to prevent it from issuing a construction permit to Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC.
Bayou Ridge is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, the same company that was denied a permit to complete construction of a key portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would have run near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, threatening the tribe's water supply. Protestors from across the nation flocked there and camped out for months, filing an unsuccessful motion for an injunction before the Corps finally issued its decision.
Mounting New Resistance
The proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline would connect the company’s North Dakota’s oil production to ports and refineries in Louisiana. But to do this, it would have to pass through the Atchafalaya Basin, a vibrant ecosystem that has provided food and economic resources to current residents and to the Choctaw and other indigenous tribes that have resided there for centuries.
Opponents of the pipeline say it could wreck the region's fragile ecology, damaging the basin and destroying Louisiana’s multi-million dollar crawfish industry.
Bayou Bridge Pipeline’s permit request to the Corps stated that it intends to construct above ground facilities “to the greatest extent possible” in order to minimize damage to the wetlands. But Atchafalaya Basinkeeper contends it is entirely impractical – and logistically impossible – for the Corps to enforce those stipulations.
“The reality is they have only one enforcement personnel, and they don’t have a boat,” Wilson said. The Corps office of public affairs did not return phone calls requesting comment for this article.
Battling Oil in Louisiana
Accusations that Louisiana's oil and gas industry have failed to live up to legal requirements are nothing new. In 2013, the Southeast Louisiana Protection Authority-East, a government oversight board that grassroots organizers lobbied for in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to oversee flood control, sued oil and gas companies including Exxon to force them to repair lands eroded due to oil and gas pipeline construction.
The move was so extraordinary in a state dominated by the oil industry that former Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana legislature sought to pass a bill to kill the lawsuit. The lawsuit currently remains in limbo.
Environmental groups additionally point to the record of Florida Gas Transmission Company, a 50/50 joint venture between Kinder Morgan and Energy Transfer Partners, which was cited in 2011 for five separate violations by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
The public hearing on the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline happens Jan. 12 at 6pm at 602 N Fifth St, Baton Rouge, La. (Atchafalaya Basinkeeper sought unsuccessfully to have the hearing moved closer to the basin). The Corps and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will allow for public comments prior to making a decision about the Bayou Basin Pipeline permit.