Pipeline fights move from Dakota prairie to Louisiana bayous

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By Liz Hampton | HENDERSON, Louisiana

HENDERSON, Louisiana When Hope Rosinski’s father
gave her a six-acre plot in Louisiana more than a decade ago,
she was surprised to find oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing
the property.

Pipeline companies later secured her permission for two more
lines, one of which has since caused flooding and consistently
leaves her land saturated.

Now she’s had enough. Rosinski is fighting the latest
request for a right-of-way, this time from Energy Transfer
Partners – the company behind the controversial Dakota
Access Pipeline. She said ETP declined to make contract changes
she wanted or to properly compensate her for lost property
value.

Opposition to the company’s planned extension of the Bayou
Bridge pipeline has made Louisiana bayous the latest
battleground in a nationwide war against new pipeline
construction.

The pushback here is one example of the increasingly broad
and diverse base of opposition nationally, which now extends
beyond traditional environmental activists. In Louisiana,
opponents include flood protection advocates, commercial
fishermen and property owners such as Rosinski.

Their fight follows high-profile protests in North Dakota
that were led by Native Americans and joined by military
veterans, who together succeeded in convincing the Obama
administration to delay construction.

Although the new administration of President Donald Trump
has since cleared that project’s completion, pipeline companies
are nonetheless taking the rising political opposition
seriously. Alan Armstrong, chief executive at pipeline firm
Williams Companies, told a conference in Pittsburgh that
Trump’s action would not hamper the protest movement.

“It may even enhance it,” he said the day after Trump
cleared the Dakota pipeline in January.

Pipeline supporters argue that more infrastructure is
essential for the oil and gas industry to provide affordable
energy and reduce dependence on foreign imports and dirtier
energy sources such as coal.

Opponents counter that pipeline companies can’t be trusted
to prevent leaks. Technology designed to detect spills only
accomplished that goal in 20 percent of known pipeline leaks
between 2010 and 2016, according to a Reuters analysis of data
from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety
Administration.

Energy Transfer and its affiliates had among the most spills
of any pipeline company, with nearly 260 leaks from lines
carrying hazardous liquids since 2010, according to the Reuters
analysis. An ETP spokesperson said most of those spills were
small and occurred on company property.

The company said in a statement that it seeks to work with
landowners and communities to “build the pipeline in the safest,
most environmentally friendly manner possible.”

ETP’s relations with Rosinski, however, have apparently
broken down. She told Reuters that the firm has threatened to
take her to court for the right of way, citing legal rights of
pipeline companies to build infrastructure for broader public
benefit.

Rosinski wants to resist, but knows a court battle could be
costly and lengthy.

“I’m a single mom,” she said. “I don’t have the finances.”

ETP declined to comment specifically on Rosinski’s case but
said it typically gets voluntary agreements on easements from
owners in about 9 out of 10 cases, without legal action.

NOT IN MY BACKYARD

Some pipeline protesters are driven by opposition to any
expansion of fossil fuel development, but many have more local
and specific concerns.

Many protests so far – including the encampment in North
Dakota, led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe – have focused
largely on fear of water contamination.

Similar objections have cropped up in West Texas from
protesters of Energy Transfer’s Trans-Pecos gas line, and in
Arkansas and Tennessee over the Diamond Pipeline operated by
Plains All American Pipeline.

Activists in Pennsylvania have been fighting a Williams
Companies pipeline plan for three years. The company is looking
to add 185 miles of new pipeline to its Atlantic Sunrise line,
connecting the northeastern Marcellus natural gas shale region
with the southeast part of the state. Opponents have argued the
expansion could cause an explosion or taint the local water that
supplies farms.

They’re borrowing tactics from Standing Rock tribe’s
standoff. Malinda Clatterbuck, 46, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania,
who leads the group Lancaster Against Pipelines, said residents
are setting up a camp in Conestoga, where a right-of-way has
been granted, and plans to live on and off at the camp with her
family.

“I’m exhausted and angry about this,” she said. “Why do we
have to upend our lives just to try to get justice for our
community?”

Williams said it has operated 60 miles of pipeline safely in
Lancaster County and that the company plans to exceed federal
safety standards for the extension.

“We’ve also heard from thousands of people who support the
project – individuals, chambers and business groups – who
recognize the economic benefit,” the company said in a
statement.

DEAD CRAWFISH IN THE BAYOUS

In Louisiana – home to massive oil refineries and about
50,000 miles of pipelines – ETP’s planned Bayou Bridge extension
would run across southern Louisiana for about 160 miles, between
Lake Charles and St. James.

The state has a mutually beneficial but testy relationship
with the oil industry, which is widely blamed for cutting
through wetlands and contributing to coastal erosion that has
left Louisiana more vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding.

Some opponents of the Bayou Bridge are concerned that its
construction will pollute drinking water and constrict drainage
systems during heavy rains. Others want to see pipeline
companies take better care of the environment during and after
construction.

Jody Meche, 47, of Henderson, fears economic damage. He has
fished in the Atchafalaya Basin for a quarter century. For
years, he has been pushing companies to remove spoil banks
caused by pipeline construction and oil exploration because they
hurt the commercial fishing industry.

The spoil banks act as dams inside the basin, damaging the
local ecosystem by stopping water flow.

Meche can sees the impact in the crawfish traps he pulls up
from the bayou daily during the season, from February to early
summer. The critters resemble tiny lobsters and are in high
demand at bars and backyard boils from New Orleans to Houston.

“The stagnant water is not good for them at all,” Meche
said. “They don’t grow as well, they don’t eat as much, they are
very lethargic.”

Meche can sell large, healthy crawfish for about $1.50 a
pound. But the smaller ones he often catches these days fetch
half that, and many in his traps these days are dead and
worthless.

CONTRACT DISPUTE

Rosinski, meanwhile, is still fighting with Enterprise
Products Partners, the pipeline company she said damaged her
property during construction of an ethane line a few years ago.
She said she has spent the last year trying to get Enterprise to
restore her land and stop the flooding.

The cost to fix it could be as little as $1,200, she said.

Enterprise told Reuters it hopes to resolve the issue
amicably, but that it has not gotten clear guidance from an
attorney hired by Rosinski.

Rosinski received the right-of-way request from Energy
Transfer Partners as she was squabbling with Enterprise. She
suggested 30 changes to the contract and requested more
compensation. ETP refused, she said, and told her it may take up
the dispute in court.

“I’ve done my part,” she said of her previous agreements to
allow pipelines through her property. “They’re consuming my
land.” (Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici)



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