By David Hammer
PARADIS - The explosion in St. Charles Parish comes as environmental groups are protesting major pipeline projects, including one proposed in Louisiana.
As a gas pipeline fire raged Thursday night in Paradis, St. Charles Sheriff Greg Champagne dismissed the idea of pollution immediately.
“We're not anticipating any environmental pollution problems,” said Sheriff Champagne
Phillips 66 manager Todd Denton did the same Friday. “So far, we see no impact at all.”
“It's almost comical to have a public official standing in front of an inferno, huge flames, billowing black smoke, and to say there's no pollution. I mean that's completely ridiculous,” said Anne Rolfes of Louisiana Bucket Brigade.
She said St. Charles Parish officials said the same thing in 2001, when the Orion Refinery suffered the largest tank fire in American history.
Rolfes tracks pipeline accidents and found 144 reported in Louisiana in 2016 that spilled nearly half a million gallons of oil.
This state Department of Natural Resources map shows 50,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines.
Environmentalists protested Wednesday against permits to build another 162 miles for the Bayou Bridge oil pipeline.
“The crowd was out in force, hundreds of people saying we don't want it, and this is exactly why, because it's dangerous,” Rolfes said.
The other side of this, of course, is that thousands of miles of pipelines operate every day without a hitch, the technology is improving, and the oil and gas industry is responsible for more than a quarter million jobs in Louisiana and more than a tenth of the state's budget.