(St. James) Twenty Water Protectors brought construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline to a halt this morning in St. James Parish, an area where the pipeline company is currently under a judge’s orders to stop construction. Bayou Bridge LLC has defied Judge Alvin Turner’s order to halt construction, not only continuing construction in the fragile coastal zone but accelerating it. Water Protectors intervened today to enforce the law that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources is failing to enforce. Two women were arrested at the site.
“St. James residents haven’t been listened to,” said Alicia Cooke, a Water Protector with 350 New Orleans who was arrested in this morning’s civil disobedience. “We’ve been fighting this pipeline on every level through every legal means for over a year. I’m not sure how many more ways Louisianans can say we don’t want this or need this. Our bodies are on the line, because that’s all we have left.” A video of the morning’s events is available here.
The Water Protectors walked on site amidst bulldozers and heavy equipment, which workers immediately brought to a halt. The pipeline is visible on the site, where trees have been cleared, a 20 foot wide trench dug and much of the pipeline laid. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline is being dug right through this coastal zone, a contradiction of the government’s and even the oil industry’s stated urgency to protect the coast. In his April 30th decision, Judge Turner noted the risk to the St. James community from the pipeline.
“I am a New Orleans resident engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience today to stop the illegal continuation of work here in St. James Parish and to highlight the numerous harms of the petrochemical industry to the community of St. James and also throughout south Louisiana,” said Jackie Bang, one of the women who was arrested this morning. “This is one of the regions most impacted by climate change, too. We should end all pipelines.”
Water Protectors monitoring construction have cited numerous permit violations which have been communicated to the Department of Natural Resources (photographs available on the Louisiana Water Protector Facebook page). The department has thus far failed to take any action beyond retroactively modifying the permit to make Bayou Bridge’s activities legal.
Bayou Bridge’s parent company is Energy Transfer Partners, a company notorious for flouting laws and causing destruction nationwide. “Across the country, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) acts as if it’s above the law, and government lets it get away with it,” said Ethan Buckner, Energy Campaigner with Earthworks. “ETP violates permits, ignores agency orders, inflicts violence upon protesters and, most recently, openly defies court orders. Consequently the public has to directly hold this company to account, and we will continue to do so. From the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf Coast, communities are standing up to this corporate bully and demanding our rights be respected.”
The women arrested today were charged with trespass on an immovable structure and released mid-morning. The action is part of a long running civil disobedience campaign to stop construction of the pipeline, action taken because of the state’s failure to enforce the law. Today’s arrests come after two events this week in which Judge Turner’s order were delivered to relevant parties, including the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and Bayou Bridge site supervisors in St. James.
The community of St. James is burdened with the highest concentration of crude oil pipeline disasters in the State of Louisiana, according to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration data. The National Response Center data, including self reports by industry, detailed 37 accidents in a 14 month period in St. James Parish. According to a recent report by Greenpeace and Waterkeeper Alliance, Energy Transfer Partners averages an accident or oil spill every eleven days.