Pipeline Fight Moves from Dakotas to Louisiana

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Posted by Joseph Keefe

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."

By Liz Hampton

Feb 22, 2017

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