Balking at Bakken on the Bayou

New audio file uploaded 11/19/16. Thank you to listeners for alerting us of the problem!

While opposition and resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline has grown and drawn international attention, the companies who market the oil from the Bakken Fields of the Dakotas have been assembling the final pieces in the infrastructure they intend to use to move the oil to refineries and then to market.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline already brings oil from the Bakken Fields from a terminal in Nederland, TX, to refineries in Lake Charles. Partners in the project want to build a 160-mile pipeline to move the refined oil to a Mississippi River terminal in St. James, LA.
The Bayou Bridge Pipeline already brings oil from the Bakken Fields by way of a terminal in Nederland, TX, to refineries in Lake Charles. Partners in the project want to build a 160-mile pipeline to move the refined oil to a Mississippi River terminal in St. James, LA.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a partnership involving three companies – Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco Logistics Partners and Phillips 66. Energy Transfer Partners will own the pipeline that Sunoco Logistics Partners is building. Phillips 66 apparently makes the deals for the oil in the Dakotas, for refinery access at various stages along the national route, and then distribution points for the refined products.

With much of the nation’s oil refinery capacity located in Louisiana and Texas, it is no surprise that Bakken oil will make its way into the state. Some of it has been coming to Louisiana by rail to Port Manchac in Tangipahoa Parish, then barged across Lake Pontchartrain to the Industrial Canal in New Orleans before making its way to a Phillips 66 refinery and tank farm in Plaquemine Parish.

But, Energy Transfer Partners is in the pipeline business and so they have been pushing aggressively to pipe oil out of North Dakota down to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. Persistently low oil prices forced cancellation of another Dakota pipeline planned by Enbridge Energy earlier this year. The company cited falling production in the Bakken fields as the reason behind its decision to cancel its Sandpiper pipeline project. Enbridge says there is a glut of pipeline capacity connected to the North Dakota fields.

Energy Transfer Partners is pushing on with the Dakota Access project while pushing to build a new route across south Louisiana to move refined Bakken oil from Lake Charles to an oil terminal on the Mississippi River in St. James, LA.

Energy Information Administration map of natural gas pipeline corridors in the United States, circa 2008.
Energy Information Administration map of natural gas pipeline corridors in the United States, circa 2008.

Louisiana has literally thousands of pipelines running through it. The Energy Information Administration‘s map of natural gas pipeline corridors alone obscures nearly the entire state. The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would seem to be just another line on the map.

In our interview on KPEL, Scott Eustis of the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) said the 160-mile proposed pipeline would cross around 700 bodies of water, including watersheds used as sources of drinking water for 100,000 residents or more. Eustis said the pipeline will require a Coastal Use Permit because it crosses into the Coastal Zone as it approaches St. James.

Coastal Use Permits (and the lack of them) are at the heart of the lawsuits seeking to make the oil and gas industry pay for its share of the damage to Louisiana’s coast resulting from their operations in the Coastal Zone.

But, beyond environmental and coastal concerns, a new wrinkle in the fight not only against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, but against pipelines in general in Louisiana.

This was brought to light in the final segment of this week’s show in my conversation with Hope Rosinski of Acadia Parish. Rosinski owns six acres of land and already has six pipeline rights of way crossing her property. She says the rights of way effectively take land away from her because “nothing can be done in the right of way once it has been created.” She says you can’t build a structure in the right of way. “All you can do is maintain it,” she says.

Louisiana PSC Commissioner, Sunoco Logistics Partner board member, and 3rd District Congressional candidate Scott Angelle.
Louisiana PSC Commissioner, Sunoco Logistics Partner board member, and 3rd District Congressional candidate Scott Angelle.

Rosinski’s property has been surveyed by companies working for the pipeline partnership. She has hesitated signing the agreement saying she wants more information about the pipeline, its contents, the pressure that will be used in it, as well as a safety plan in the event of a failure. Rosinski says that when she told the land man working the project that she wanted her attorney to review the proposed right of way agreement, he “showed his fangs” threatening to take her to court to force her to give access to the energy companies under the use of imminent domain.

Acadiana area farmers and property owners have also sought relief from land takings for pipeline rights of way. They sought state help in narrowing the pipeline corridors last year, but were shot down when lobbyists for the industry opposed the proposal.

This being Louisiana, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline has a political element involved as well. Louisiana Public Service Commission member Scott Angelle sits on the board of Sunoco Logistics Partners, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners. Sunoco Logistics builds the pipelines for the partnership. Sunoco would be the company to invoke imminent domain along the rouge, a significant part of which runs through the 3rd Congressional District where Angelle is a candidate for that vacant seat.

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