Aerial blockade established in canopy of old growth cypress trees in the path of Energy Transfer Partners’ Bayou Bridge pipeline project

ATCHAFALAYA NATIONAL HERITAGE AREA, LA:  Water protectors living high in the canopy of old growth cypress trees brought construction on the Bayou Bridge pipeline to a halt earlier today in the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp in North America.

The action – known as a tree sit– was initiated to amplify pleas from Louisiana residents who have begged their local elected officials to protect these ancient trees from destruction by the pipeline company and to provide an evacuation route for the predominantly African American St. James community, which sits at the tail end of the 163-mile Energy Transfer Partners project.

Water protectors say they had hoped to avoid taking this drastic action, but say they have been forced to act because despite utilizing all other options, Louisiana residents remain unheard and unprotected.

“Communities impacted by this needless, destructive pipeline have done everything to make our voices heard,” said one blockader, who chooses to remain anonymous. “It’s clear that neither the Louisiana State Government, nor the court system, can be expected to protect us. When we can’t count on Governor Edwards to hold a corporate criminal accountable for its destruction, we have to take this into our own hands.”

In early 2017, hundreds of Louisiana residents attended public meetings and thousands more submitted comments in opposition of the project, which if completed will cross over 700 waterways and run through the Atchafalaya Basin, exacerbating flooding in the region and harming crawfish habitat.

Despite strong community opposition, the project was granted construction permits by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corp of Engineers. The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources granted the company a permit to build in the state’s environmentally sensitive coastal zone.

In response, several local organizations filed suit to stop construction, contending that the Army Corp violated the Clean Water Act and other federal requirements when it failed to consider potential threats to the environment when issuing its permit.

At the same time, other organizations – including a group of St. James residents – filed a separate suit, alleging that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources did not follow state guidelines when issuing the permit without considering the impact the project would have on local environmental justice communities.

Despite several legal wins — including a ruling that the pipeline’s permit was illegally granted — state officials refused to enforce those rulings and they were eventually overturned.

Arguments on the merits of the only remaining possibility to stop the pipeline through legal action are not expected to be heard until after pipeline construction is complete.

As pleas for an evacuation route for the St. James community have continued to be ignored by elected officials and state agencies, water protectors have gradually increased their use of direct action, stopping work at multiple work sites across the route.

“We’ve exhausted all other means to protect both the community of St. James and the Atchafalaya Basin, which is a designated natural heritage area,” said Cherri Foytlin, co-founder of the L’eau Est La Vie resistance camp.

“The permitting agencies, the legal system, law enforcement and our public elected officials have failed the residents of Louisiana, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Bayou Bridge pipeline is bad for the people and environment of our state,” said Foytlin.

“If the state can’t – or won’t – protect its residents from this destructive and greedy corporation, water protectors will. We will not stop until the residents of St. James are protected,” she added.

The Bayou Bridge pipeline is part of a larger Energy Transfer Partners crude oil pipeline project that will connect the controversial Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota to oil export terminals in Louisiana.

In 2016, tens of thousands of Native Americans water protectors and their allies gathered at Standing Rock to oppose the Dakota Access pipeline, which now runs under the Missouri River, where a spill could contaminate the primary source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux and millions in the Midwest.

Considered the southern leg of the Dakota Access pipeline, the Bayou Bridge pipeline has faced numerous lawsuits and fierce opposition among indigenous groups, environmental organizations, crawfisher associations, and communities in Cancer Alley.

Water protectors cite Energy Transfer Partners’ atrocious human rights and environmental record as evidence that Bayou Bridge is an operator that can’t be trusted.

A recent report found that ETP’s pipelines have spilled an average of once every eleven days for the past fifteen years. The report also found extensive violations of human rights and indigenous sovereignty committed by ETP during the construction of recent projects, including the highly controversial Dakota Access pipeline project, which has already leaked at least six times.

“We deserve better than to have our precious resources pulverized for the profit of a private oil company based in Texas,” said another tree sitter who added that ETP has already stolen land through eminent domain, land that was stolen from indigenous people.

“Instead of permitting more pipelines the state government should invest resources to protect our coast, reduce flooding, and improve health and safety conditions in vulnerable communities like St. James. We protect these trees for our future generations and in defense of the earth.”

29 thoughts to “BREAKING: Tree Sitters Block Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction in Atchafalaya Basin

  • Christine Hanlon

    I support the legal process but when it fails, direct action is required. No pipeline should be allowed in this area. Respect the land and the community.

    Reply
  • Thomas Everitt

    no more pipelines

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  • Renee Sutherland

    Situations like this in all states are disgusting! The state’s are doing things to destroy our natural resources for pure greed. In Louisiana water protectors living high in the canopy of old growth cypress trees (called a tree sit) brought construction on the Bayou Bridge pipeline to a halt earlier today in the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp in North America.

    Despite several legal wins — including a ruling that the pipeline’s permit was illegally granted — state officials refused to enforce those rulings and they were eventually overturned. Arguments on the merits of the only remaining possibility to stop the pipeline through legal action are not expected to be heard until after pipeline construction is complete. We must stop construction until the arguments can be heard. What has happened to the democratic process in our country?

    I URGE the state of Louisiana to listen to the wishes of the people and not be blinded by greed. Hasn’t Louisiana suffered enough from oil and weather disasters? Why place this state in harms way purposefully?

    The money for this pipeline should be used on improvements to protect the coast, reduce flooding, and improve health and safety conditions for the people in Louisiana. ““We deserve better than to have our precious resources pulverized for the profit of a private oil company based in Texas,” said another tree sitter who added that ETP has already stolen land through eminent domain, land that was stolen from indigenous people.”

    Reply
  • scott Bovard

    Stop the pipeline….go to renewables!!

    Reply
  • Astrid Thomsen

    Tragically corrupt Louisiana officials continue to murder and mutilate their captive and helpless environment and people with destruction and chemicals just as HITLER murdered and tortured captive and helpless victims he had control over. THESE GREEDY AND CORRUPT OFFICIALS AND MONSTER CORPORATIONS MUST BE STOPPED ANY WAY POSSIBLE!

    Reply
  • Harriet Cohen

    I cannot thank you enough for writing what is happening and getting this out to those of us fighting elsewhere. Here in Oregon we are fighting a similar battle- though without as clearly offensive environmental racism as is occurring in Louisiana.
    Blessings on your strength and your protection. May we live to see the tides turn against this destruction of our time.

    Reply
  • Janet DeGuardi

    Hasn’t enough damage been done by Big Oil and this incompetent admin?

    Reply
  • paul tescher

    this is about as un-American as it gets!

    Reply
  • Andra

    I applaud the efforts and courage of the tree sitters to stop the ruin of our water and earth. These pipelines are already leaking and the new ones will eventually leak also. Would the state government officials want their families to live close to where these pipelines are being built?
    That is a good question to pose?
    I pray for the tree sitters and their heroic effort to stop the pipe lines from being built!
    May God bless them for their courageous act!

    Reply
  • Pamela Hayes

    It’s getting really bad when local citizens have no say about what happens to the surrounding areas in which they live. Fuck fossil fuels.

    Reply
  • Bonnie Andrus

    Protect trees, communities and the environment. We are the stewards of out lands.

    Reply
  • Lenore

    While driving through OR last week, looking at utter destruction of forests for miles, I wondered where the fabulous tree sitters had gone, and today I read of them in LA. Your state is truly ignored, every time I go to visit friends there I see a culture, a way of life, the environment, disappearing under the bulldozer. Everyone I know there has multiple friends and family dying or dead from cancer. There are no words for me to express my gratitude and admiration for you Louisianans who fight for social and environmental justice in a state that’s tossed aside as a nothing. Keep up the grand fight down south, we’ll keep it going up north!

    Reply
  • robert stayman

    Wildlife first

    Reply
  • Pat Pike-Dimel

    No Bridge! No pipelines.

    Reply
  • John Endres

    So sorry to learn of the struggle for clean water, cypress trees, and your livelihood! I admire your willingness to take a stand against destructive corporations and corporate-owned government officials.
    Citizens in Newport, Washington and northern Idaho are also fighting for citizens’ rights and clean environment. Our struggle is against the highly polluting Canadian company HiTest/PacWest silicon smelter that is being thrust upon us without any citizen notification or input.
    Just as our ancestors whose courageous sacrifice led to the Declaration of Independence and the birth of our nation, we need to stand together and fight for justice and our rights as citizens of the USA–our courageous ancestors must be rolling in their graves.
    Two citizens’ groups: Citizens Against the Newport silicon Smelter (CANSS) and Responsible Growth*NE Washington (RG*NEW) have formed, and the Kalispel Tribe has also contributed significantly to our struggle. We also are fighting a corrupt corporation and corrupt government and utility officials. My thoughts are with you… we stand together.
    Thank you for your courage,
    John Endres

    Reply
  • Robin Stiles

    This oil is not needed, except for generating $ for greedy pockets. Consider not the profits to be earned but the people to be harmed by this pipeline. Water is life.

    Reply
  • Misty

    Too Bad y’all can’t get all that razor wire in ND…laid flat covered by soil then
    Pulled up infront of machines just as they get to it, would tangle around axle and stop
    them without damage to the vechicle ……as long as they stop….if they drive on …then they could create damage like the brake lines . 10 lines of concertina will stop a tank.

    Reply
  • Virginia Carter

    No pipelines in Louisiana’s basin!!

    Reply
  • David werner

    Big business and politicians are probably the dumbest people on earth when it envolves nature and environment! Expect no sympathy! Free people simply have to become stronger by bonding together and not put up with the ruling class. When same exhibits such denseness.

    Reply
  • David werner

    Big business and politicians are probably the dumbest people on earth when it envolves nature and environment! Expect no sympathy! Free people simply have to become stronger by bonding together and not put up with the ruling class.

    Reply
  • Katz Ro

    leave the land and the people alone

    Reply
  • Ronaele Snyder

    This administration continues to destroy our environment without any regard for our land, water, air and human concerns for health and welfare of all the animal and plant species that will be harmed with this dirty energy project. King Titus has no thoughts beyond greed of money for our nation and its citizens.

    Reply
  • Faith Murphy

    I’m a Louisiana native. This kills my soul. This can’t happen!!

    Reply
  • Linda Nelson

    This corporation is backed by the Koch’s who will stop at nothing to get their agenda through. It’s time they are stopped. I supported the water protectors in North Dakota and I will support these TreeSitters in Louisiana.

    Reply
  • judy fishman

    Having to take to the trees to prevent further destruction of the environment is an extreme and desperate measure. All legal means were exhausted, save one which is useless because it will be decided on after the completion of the Bayou Bridge. The whole pipeline is something we no longer need. Our country has made renewable energy the energy of the future, and we have more than enough non-renewable resources not including coal. We do not want or need this antediluvian resource.

    Reply
  • sue twiggs

    I support the tree sitters in the ATCHAFALAYA and St James. The project should stop until the court can enforce past rulings.
    Sue

    Reply
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  • Susan Lanes

    I am so amazed at the bravery of the Water Protecters, they are inspiring.

    Reply
  • Lea

    Bless all you people standing for the basin and trees.

    Reply

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