Environmental Extremists Working To Stop Louisiana Pipeline

Jason Hopkins | Immigration and politics reporter

Construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline has quietly attracted an alarming amount of aggressive protesters, arriving from around the country and using destructive means to stall the project’s completion.

Bayou Bridge has won the support of a bipartisan coalition of Louisiana government officials attracted by the prospects of jobs, investment and energy development. Such politicians include Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, most members of the state’s congressional delegation, numerous state legislators, local city councilors and other industry associations.

However, the Louisiana project has also attracted its fair share of detractors. Although Bayou Bridge hasn’t received anywhere near the amount of news coverage of other pipelines — Keystone XL and Dakota Access, for example — construction sites throughout southern Louisiana have been perpetual targets of vandalism and extreme tactics by environmentalists.

A group of protesters were able to temporarily halt pipeline construction in February by standing in the way of machinery, with some sitting on a pipe and others walking near backhoes. Three of them were arrested by local police. A group of about 20 protesters blocked access to an industrial yard in April near Lake Charles for over three hours, leaving five truck drivers trapped inside. Two of those protesters were dressed as crawfish and chained themselves to heavyweight barrels. Law enforcement had to physically push the barrels aside to let the trucks get through — this was not the only time protesters chained themselves to cement-filled barrels to disrupt construction. Several environmentalists were ticketed and kicked out for trespassing on private property and meddling with equipment in May. These protesters initially lied to police, falsely claiming they had the property owner’s permission to be there. It was later discovered that all but one of those protesters were from out of state. As recently as May 24, another two protesters were arrested for attempting to block construction on Bayou Bridge.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline is a 163-mile crude oil pipeline that will extend through southern Louisiana, running across the state’s Atchafalaya Basin. The project is actually a “phase II” of Bayou Bridge that already runs from east Texas to Lake Charles, La. When completed, the new pipeline will run from Lake Charles to St. James, La. and carry up to 480,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Project construction will bring an estimated $750-million investment into the area and provide around 2,500 jobs. The finished pipeline will serve as a crucial hub for refineries in the Gulf Coast region.

Activism against Bayou Bridge began almost as soon as Energy Transfer Partners — the operators and majority owners of the pipeline — began construction on the first phase. As progress began on the second phase, opposition groups ran to the judicial branch.

After the state Department of Natural Resources issued an approval permit in April 2017, environmental groups in June of that year filed a lawsuit in state court demanding the permit be overturned. Environmental activists endured another setback when the New Orleans District office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted Bayou Bridge its own approval permit in December 2017. Environmentalists, once again, attempted to overturn that decision in court. Plaintiffs in the corps lawsuit included EarthJustice, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance and other green groups.

Beyond the courtroom, environmental advocates have taken more direct — and more physical — actions against Bayou Bridge. A growing list of protesters have been arrested since work on the pipeline began in 2018, and numerous acts of vandalism have occurred at construction sites.

These protesters have come from all corners of the country and belong to a host of different environmental organizations. The most active green groups working on the ground to stymie Bayou Bridge work appears to be Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 350 New Orleans and members of the L’eau Est La Vie Camp, with some of these people among those arrested. Numerous instances of property damage has occurred. (RELATED: Environmentalists Showed Up To Protest A Louisiana Pipeline — All But One Were From Out Of State)

“Unfortunately, our contractors have experienced vandalism at multiple locations to pieces of equipment, causing significant damage and potentially harmful environmental impacts,” said Alexis Daniel, spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We are aware that there is opposition to the project from a few local and non-local residents of Louisiana. However, outside of this small group there is overwhelming support for Louisiana’s energy industry and our pipeline project. We are hearing this from local homeowners along the right-of-way, area businesses and various other stakeholders.”

Vandalism by environmental protesters has become such an issue, in fact, Louisiana lawmakers felt the need to take legislative action. House Bill 727 overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the state legislature and awaits Edwards’s signature. If signed, the bill would add “pipelines” and “any site where the construction or improvement of any facility or structure” to the list of critical infrastructure sites, stiffening the penalty for damage to such sites.

L’eau Est La Vie Camp — its French name meaning “water is life,” appears to be female-led, travels to different areas near Bayou Bridge sites and attempts to halt construction progress. Supporters are encouraged to join the camp or send money to help with supplies. Its item wish list includes typical camping equipment, but also lists some questionable items such as saws, propane tanks, gorilla tape and heavy-duty rope.

L’eau Est La Vie did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

Sources with TheDCNF claim L’eau Est La Vie is working closely with members of EarthFirst!, an environmental extremist group. EarthFirst! is notorious for having created The Direct Action Manual, a guide that teaches environmentalists how to damage property, handle arrests and other tactics. EarthFirst! appears to run a small website, but it’s not immediately clear who runs the site or how active it is.

However, EarthFirst! Journal is a publication site that documents the environmentalist movement and focuses on EarthFirst!’s activities. An anonymous writer named “Rabbit” responded when TheDCNF reached out to EarthFirst! Journal for comment. Rabbit made clear his or her website does not speak for everyone who identifies as an EarthFirst! member. The Journal, however, does distribute the Direction Action Manual to “those who want it.”

“Earth First! is an international environmental movement that has been around since 1979,” Rabbit explained. “It is made up of thousands of autonomous individuals around the world. Much like the animal rights movement, or the feminist movement, or the movement for Black lives, it has no leaders, no offices and no members.”

Rabbit personally disavowed the use of violence, but suggested many EarthFirst! members condone the destruction of property.

“[T]o my knowledge no Earth First! action has ever resulted in bodily harm to anyone, and no Earth First!er or Earth First! group has ever expressed a desire to cause bodily harm to anyone — quite the opposite. Earth First!ers, in my experience, are dedicated to preventing harm to living things,” Rabbit wrote. “Earth First! also does not have a stance on property destruction.”

“Speaking personally, as a reporter and a person who has been involved with the actions of a few Earth First! group in the past, I think it would be safe to assume that most Earth First!ers, environmental advocates, social justice advocates, and people in general would value living things over the inanimate objects that harm living things.”

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