The Bayou Bridge pipeline is a 163-mile long project proposed by Energy Transfer Partners that would carry oil from Nederland, Texas, across the state of Louisiana to refineries and international export terminals in the Gulf. The project faces growing opposition from communities in South Louisiana whose water and communities would be directly impacted.
Bayou Bridge is the tail-end of the Dakota Access pipeline – or “a snake with fangs at both ends,” as Bold Louisiana executive director Cherri Foytlin calls it. The project would cross 11 parishes and 700 bodies of water putting Indigenous peoples in harm’s way, threatening the health and safety of all nearby communities, and adding to the glut of fossil fuel projects driving the climate crisis. Louisiana is already experiencing the impacts of climate change, from rising seas to extreme weather and flooding. Meanwhile, the fossil fuel industry continues to displace and erode the few natural defenses, like wetlands, the state has.
Last week, leaders in the fight to stop Bayou Bridge held a webinar call to let people know about the project’s status, share stories of those living along the path of the proposed pipeline, and layout plans to resist the project moving forward. Cherri of Bold Louisiana kicked off the call recognizing the vast coalition that’s come together to oppose Bayou Bridge. Indigenous peoples, communities of color, and residents of South Louisiana living with the direct impacts from the fossil fuel industry are leading this fight. She underscored the disturbing actions of Energy Transfer Partners in North Dakota, and the connection between Dakota Access and Bayou Bridge, which would serve as a final leg transporting crude oil from Lake Charles to a terminal in St. James Parish.
Currently, Energy Transfer Partners has one of the three permits needed to build Bayou Bridge. The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources granted the first permit, and environmental groups are suing the state agency for not thoroughly considering environmental impacts. Additional permits are still needed from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. More than 700 people attended recent public hearings about the pipeline, and thousands are demanding that Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards order an environmental impact statement on the project.
On the call, many leaders shared the potentially devastating impacts from Bayou Bridge if built. Jodi Meche, who comes from a multi-generational crawfishing family, has already witnessed the fossil fuel industry’s degradation of the Atchafalaya Basin – the largest wetland and swam in the United States – from which his family makes their livelihood. Bayou Bridge would pass through the basin, which has faced multiple oil spills from other fossil fuel projects.
Jeffery U. Darensbourg of the Atakapa-Ishak Nation spoke of the basin’s importance historically and presently, saying, “Louisiana has some of the most caring, generous people, people who are intimately concerned with other people, and we should direct that concern into concern for Louisiana itself, this land, this place that we are from, this place in which we have roots, and not allow it to be cut away and destroyed.”
From St. James Parish, where the pipeline would terminate, Eve Butler explained the changes her family has seen in their community over generations as the fossil fuel industry has moved in. Complaints about pollution in her neighborhood have gone unaddressed, as families have gotten sick.
“The environment is being damaged,” Eve said on the call. “And they say, ‘Well, you’ve always had pipelines.’ But when is it enough? It’s like a house of cards. And Energy Transfer Partners and Bayou Bridge, that’s the card that’s going to bring down the house.”
Scott Eustis, a coastal wetlands specialist with Gulf Restoration Network, detailed how land loss in the state has been exacerbated by the fossil fuel industry. Wetlands, which help protect against storm surge, are disappearing and not nearly enough is being done to address it.
“This pipeline is just kind of an exclamation point on a long sentence of destruction and extraction that the state is facing,” said Eustis referring to Bayou Bridge, noting that Louisiana spends about $2 billion a year subsidizing oil and gas projects.
As Bayou Bridge moves through the approval process, leaders are gearing up for resistance. Anne White Hat, a leader from the Lakota Nation in South Dakota, talked about the L’eau Est La Vie (“Water Is Life” in the indigenous-colonial Houma French language) camp, a floating camp and center of resistance in the swamps of South Louisiana. The camp is taking applications at www.nobbp.org.
As Cherri said on the call, Louisiana is the “belly of the beast” when it comes to the intersections of climate impacts and direct environmental impacts from the fossil fuel industry. Resisting Bayou Bridge is bigger than stopping one pipeline — it’s about challenging an industry that’s endangering our communities and our climate, and putting profits before people.
How can you get involved? You can also sign up for updates at www.nobbp.org and at www.boldlouisiana.org. You can also sign the petition launched by Bold, urging Gov. Edwards to stop the pipeline – something he has the power to do. And if you’re in Louisiana, you can join the weekly actions held every Tuesday at the Governor’s mansion, demanding that he cancel Bayou Bridge.