My family’s home in Lafayette never flooded. We lived in it for over 40 years, and though the Vermilion River swelled nearby during heavy rains, I never felt threatened. But times have changed, and after the August floods of 2016 the new owners splashed Facebook with pictures from our flooded living room. If we continue to build pipelines like the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, we risk more floods.
The most obvious connection between the Bayou Bridge Pipeline and flooding is that the proposed route is through 600 acres of wetlands. Hurricanes Rita and Katrina painfully taught us the value of wetland protection. We should be building up our wetlands, not building on them.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration further explained the connection between our use of oil and flooding. In a study after the flood, the agency concluded that the warming in our atmosphere made the floods 40 percent more likely. Burning fossil fuels, like oil, warms the atmosphere. When the air is warm, it holds more moisture which causes more rain. That’s what happened in August.
The Bayou Bridge Pipeline propels us down a road that no one wants to be on: toward more warming, more destruction of our wetlands, more flooding and more pollution. The National Response Center, the federal point of contact for oil spills, received reports of 144 pipeline accidents in Louisiana in 2016. That’s almost three every week. And those are just the ones that were reported.
Cypremort Point, Grand Chenier and the Chandeleur Islands were some of the locations of the spills. The report from Chandeleur said this: “Caller is reporting that a leak developed on a flow line associated with [a well] resulting in the discharge of 8.5 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.” This is what happens to our favorite fishing spots. The oil industry minimizes these spills, but supposedly small spills over 65 years have an impact. And don’t forget about BP.
Oil industry spokespeople claim that the Bayou Bridge Pipeline is the safest way to transport oil, but 144 accidents in a single year speaks for itself. People in Louisiana realize these risks. It’s why hundreds of us were at a hearing last week urging the state to reject the project.
While Louisiana continues to pursue oil and gas, one of the fastest growing job sectors in the United States is renewable energy. We are laggards missing out on a growing industry as the same old thinking and the greed of a few keeps us locked into oil. The jobs in the renewable energy sector are good, safe jobs that do not require weeks away on a rig.
Those who insist on projects like the Bayou Bridge Pipeline are like a man at a poker table who, caught in the adrenaline of the game, bets his home on the next round. In this case, the oil industry is putting all of our homes up for bet, pretending that there’s no risk that flooding will get worse. But building on wetlands and continuing to burn oil is a bad bet. Now’s the time to turn to a new game. Reject the Bayou Bridge pipeline and pursue renewable energy.
Anne Rolfes is founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group committed to protecting Louisiana’s wetlands and waterways.