American Press: Opponents to pipeline bring concerns to Baton Rouge

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By Emily Fontenot

Opponents of a proposed 163-mile pipeline extending from Lake Charles to St. James will convene outside the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. today to request that Gov. John Bel Edwards formally ask for an environmental impact statement on the project. 

Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said organizations resorted to the public demonstration after being ignored for months by the governor’s office. Edwards hasn’t replied to hundreds of calls and letters, she said, and his chief counsel Matthew Block stopped responding after meeting with opponents this summer.

“It feels very much like we’ve been ghosted,” she said. “We’re not getting anywhere.” 

Organizers will start today by reading letters calling for the governor to write the Army Corps of Engineers and request the environmental impact statement, Rolfes said. The group will then submit the letters to the governor’s office. 

Rolfes said demonstrations are planned every Tuesday in October at the same time and place.

She said the state seems to be in “a real hurry” to permit the pipeline and needs a better understanding of its impact on the surrounding community before giving the go ahead to developers.

“It’s an enormous project in terms of the destruction of our state,” Rolfes said. “It threatens sensitive wetlands areas. It will further degrade the Atchafalaya Basin, and it will threaten drinking water for 300,000 people.”

The governor has publicly supported the project, calling it the safest way to transport crude oil. Rolfes questioned why he and other supporters would oppose a thorough review of the project if they believe in its safety. 

“If this pipeline is so great, if you support it, why not support a thorough assessment of the risk to our health and our environment?” Rolfes said.

The governor’s office and pipeline developer Energy Transfer did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

Although the demonstration today only calls for an environmental review of Bayou Bridge Pipeline, Rolfes said her ultimate goal is much more ambitious. She said her vision is to see the state move toward renewable energy. This would increase the safety and stability of jobs and diminish environmental impact from industry, she said.

“For too long our state has blindly permitted the oil and gas industry to do really whatever it wanted,” she said.

Proposed wetlands and water quality permits from the Corps’ and the Department of Environmental Quality are still pending.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline currently delivers crude oil from Nederland, Texas, to refineries in Lake Charles. The $750 million expansion will allow the pipeline to connect to an existing market in St. James, according to the project’s fact sheet.

About 88 percent of the pipeline, including the portion in the Atchafalaya Basin, will parallel existing infrastructure such as pipelines, power lines and roads.

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