Scott Eustis: Witness to Louisiana’s Wetlands Reckoning

Scott Eustis has had a busy mid-2017. As the Gulf Restoration Network‘s coastal specialist, he’s been part of flyovers finding chemical and petroleum product releases in the flood waters following Hurricane Harvey’s strike and the flooding that inundated southeast Texas in the wake of the storm. He’s been involved in flyovers in the Gulf of Mexico where pipeline ruptures remain part of the regular cost of business there (see photo). And, he’s been flying above the Atchafalaya Basin watching pipeline operators wreck “water quality projects” that had repaired Basin water flow that had been disrupted by earlier pipeline work at a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers.

A suspected pipeline rupture in the Gulf of Mexico in early October. Photo by Scott Eustis, Gulf Restoration Network.

Like a number of environmental organizations in Louisiana, GRN and Eustis are fighting the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline proposed by Energy Transfer Partners. It’s one leg of the network that begins with the Dakota Access Pipeline in the Bakken fields of North Dakota and zig-zags across and down the country into Nederland, TX. Bayou Bridge aims to connect the Nederland operation and a Phillips 66 refinery in Lake Charles to a storage facility in St. James Parish on the Mississippi River.

There are thousands of pipelines in Louisiana. The challenge is making the case that Bayou Bridge is somehow more dangerous than those others.

Eustis talks about the need for an environmental impact study of the Bayou Bridge project in the context of the already significant damage inflicted on the Basin by those other pipelines. The cumulative effect of hundreds (if not thousands) of disruptions of water flow in the Basin threatens its viability as a swamp and estuary.

Eustis and GRN work in five northern Gulf of Mexico states — Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. It’s a broad, culturally, geologically and environmentally diverse. The indifference of the Trump administration to the environment and threats to it has made the work of GRN all the more important. The broad range of outrages that flow from the Trump White House and threaten things from civil rights to climate protections has sparked resistance but also a raft of new organizations, all of which seem to be competing for a fixed piece of the financial real of progressives.

Established organizations have been squeezed as new ones emerge with the resistance strategy of the moment.

The climate and environmental challenges confronting the country grow daily and groups like Gulf Restoration Network have been stretching to respond.

Scott Eustis is on the frontlines watching the problems unfold, documenting the damage done, and chronicling the reckoning that is coming if we don’t find effective responses quickly.