Pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners received two major permits this week—the most recent on Thursday—for its Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana. This 163-mile long crude oil pipeline, owned in part by Phillips 66, carries the same oil that runs through Energy Transfer Partners’ more notorious Dakota Access Pipeline. Unhappy opponents of the project are gearing up for nonviolent direct action.
The Bayou Bridge Pipeline brings the crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Formation to an oil export terminal hub in St. James Parish, Louisiana. If the pipeline is built, roughly 480,000 barrels of oil are expected to travel through it a day. Pipeline critics are especially worried about an oil spill on nearby wetlands.
Now that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality issued the water quality certification Tuesday and the Army Corps of Engineers approved the pipeline’s right of way Thursday, the pipeline’s construction is almost certain to begin—and soon. It’s already secured the state’s coastal use permit and approval of the St. James Parish Council. Just a couple hurdles remain in the pipeline’s way.
“This moves us to the final step of the permitting process, which is a permit from the Atchafalaya Levee District and approval from the Coastal Protection Restoration Authority, both of which we anticipate receiving shortly,” pipeline reps wrote on a Facebook post Thursday.
Reps wrote on the post they are “pleased” with this new development but local environmentalists? Not so much. An indigenous-led camp launched in June to begin mobilizations against the project. So far, they’ve mostly done prayerful walks and collaborative art projects. This recent—and unsurprising—move now throws camp members into action-mode as they prepare for nonviolent direct action, and that includes civil disobedience.
“To be honest, my hopes were never with the state and federal agencies who have consistently proven their lack of vision and scarcity of protection for the people and waters of this great state,” wrote Cherri Foytlin, state director of environmental organization Bold Louisiana, in a statement.
To clarify: Bayou Bridge opponents come in peace and prayer. Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, another local environmental group, wants to make that clear. In the past, law enforcement perceived protesters who call themselves “water protectors” to be dangerous, and that’s what led to a militarized response back in North Dakota last year when tribal members and their allies were attempting to stop the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline.
“Didn’t Winston Churchill say, ‘We will fight them in the air. We will fight them in the sea?’” Rolfes told Earther. “Anywhere we can face [the pipeline developers], we will face them.”
If that means the courtroom, so be it. If it means along the pipeline route where people put their bodies on the line, that works, too. Once construction begins, people will most likely break some laws to try and stop the project. With other pipelines, this activity has involved people locking themselves to construction equipment or trespassing onto construction sites. It’s never involved violence.
Currently, a prayer-based march along the pipeline route is scheduled for Saturday. People with the Atakapa Ishak First Nation will conduct a traditional land blessing that afternoon. Then, attendees will build structures that stem from United Houma Nation traditions.
“The Houma Nation and all those south of the proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline route deserve the right to clean water for drinking, for bathing, for fishing, for life,” said tribal council member Monique Verdin, in a statement. “We know the risks, and Energy Transfer Partners has got the track record for us to know the gamble is not worth it.”
Earther has reached out to the Army Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners for comment and will update when they respond.