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Louisiana's Bayou Bridge Pipeline Project, United States


Pipelines in the United States are quickly becoming normalized as ‘critical public infrastructure.’ The government protections of infrastructure deemed critical to the public good have categorically expanded since the establishment of the U.S. Patriot Act of 2001 [1,3], resulting in greater limits upon a citizen’s right to freely speak and demonstrate in ways that would disrupt pipeline construction projects [4]. A key example of this normalization process is the Bayou Bridge Pipeline (also referred to as ‘the governor’s pipeline’), which was declared ‘critical infrastructure’ by the State Legislature in April 2018 through Louisiana law HB727. This law increased the fines and jail time for offenses relative to critical infrastructure, including pipelines. Unauthorized entry into areas of critical infrastructure, a mobilization practice of a number of environmental justice groups, now may hold a sentence of up to 5 years along with a fine of up to $1,000; actual damage to pipelines multiplies these terms by ten.  In March 2018, it was uncovered through leaked memos that the Governor’s office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness has established a process of monitoring of activities stemming from anti-pipeline activism [5]. Contrariwise, efforts on behalf of government officials have often ignored environmental concerns regarding the pipeline. Col. Michael Clancy, District Commander of New Orleans’s Army Corps of Engineers granted permits to the ETP without submitting the environmental impact statement normally required by the National Environmental Policy Act for projects that may cause environmental harm. This after the state institution received over 24,000 public comments expressing opposition to the project. Numerous faults on behalf of the state officials mark this case: ignorance with regards to the rights of freedom of speech by activists, disregard to both the public and environmental permitting laws, an adoption of pipeline industry language in official documents, as well as unequivocal cooperation between private security firms hired by the industry and state police officers in the control of activists.  These offenses on the public have resulted in a growing mobilization from citizens, environmental justice NGOs, human rights groups, churches, and other members of civil society.  

In January 2018, an Energy Transfer Partners/Philipps 66 crude oil pipeline began construction across the southern bayou wetlands of Louisiana. Stretching from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota, meeting the Energy Transfer Crude Oil pipeline in Illinois, and continuing along the Mississippi River to the easterly border of Texas, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline (BBP) will transport crude oil the refineries across Louisiana, scheduled to be completed by December 2018. The BBP will extend from Lake Charles to St. James, which sits just 88.5 kilometers (55.4 miles) west of New Orleans. Of the more than 700 bodies of water that the pipeline will cross along Louisiana’s coastal bayou, included is the critical reservoir supplying water to the United Houma Nation and 300,000 Louisiana residents – the Bayou La Fourche basin. Potential environmental damages to this basin include losses of a 75 foot wide swath of trees, destruction of coastal wetlands across 150 acres that are vital to Louisiana’s resilience to climate change impacts, impacts to the crawfish industry that supports thousands of jobs in the state, increases to flooding due to losses to wetlands, and the exacerbation of climate hazards through the production of carbon dioxide equivalent to 30 new coal fired plants. 

The pipeline has become especially contentious in areas of the Atchefalaya Basin, a national heritage area that represents the US’s largest swamp. From the time of writing (19 Sept 2018), activists have been living for months in the L’Eau C’est La Vie floating pipeline resistance camp in the Atchefalaya Basin, which is concurrently the world’s largest cypress swamp and a key wildlife refuge. Within this space, counter-pipeline activists have specifically been protecting old growth trees while suspended from them. As stated by one activist: 

“They got money involved and that’s all they really care about, those poor suckers. That’s all they care about is putting money into their pockets. What we’re here for is a moral obligation that we have, see, and you can’t take that away from us – and there is no amount of money and no amount of people coming after us or whatever that’s gonna take it away. We’ll suffer that because it is a righteous cause.” Activist at the L’Eau C’est La Vie Camp in Louisiana [6].

Those involved in the protest maintain a lose system of leadership and organization, following a model of leadership similar to that of DAPL, wherein no person is called the leader. The activists, who maintain much secrecy to protect their location and activities have staged tree stand protests which have set marked delays on the progress of the pipeline. The follow represents several significant events stemming from the conflict:

- 17 Sept 2018: National Day of Action @NoBayouBridge calls for multiple forms of resistance from divesting from Bank of America and Wells Fargo to public events in Knoxville, Saint Louis, Detroit, Seattle, Portland, OR, and multiple arrests including one journalist staying at the L’Eau C’est La Vie camp in Louisiana.

- 10 Sept 2018: BBP is temporarily halted due to property claims challenge stemming from Atchafalaya River Basin landowners and environmental groups. The injunction was filed in July after members of the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, a preservation group, noticed pipeline workers cutting trees and digging trenches on a 38-acre marshland in St. Mary, for which they had not been granted Access by property owners. ETP stated that they have the right to build on private property through emminent domain.

- 7 May 2018: Louisiana judge rules that the coastal permit issued for nearly 18 miles of ETP’s BB{ is illegal because the state did not require it to take into consideration impacts the project would have on St. James, a historic and predominantly black community located at the tail of the 163-mile project. [8]

- 7 January 2018: Earthjustice files lawsuit calling for the court to repeal the permit awarded by the Army Corps due to the lack of an environmental impact statement. [9, 11]

- 14 December 2017: ETP and Philipps 66 were granted a water certification permit with the LDEQ (Louisiana Department of Water Quality) for its pipeline [11]. The permit application consisted of several documents and more than 24,000 public comments expressing opposition to the project [11].

- 26 June 2017: Pastor Harry Joseph from Mount Triumph Baptist Church in St. James, LA led legal action to prevent the BBP from being built in his community, due to past environmental and human health concerns. [7]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Louisiana's Bayou Bridge Pipeline Project, United States
Country:United States of America
State or province:Louisiana
Location of conflict:Atchafalaya Basin
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Oil and gas refining
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Beginning in January 2018, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline project by Energy Transfer Partners is investing $750 million in southern Louisiana communities including an estimated short-term 2,500 construction jobs in order to construct a pipeline that will carry nearly a half million barrels of oil per day across Louisiana’s wetlands. Currently, The Bayou Bridge pipeline (BBP) has the capacity to transport multiple grades of crude oil from the terminal hub facilities in Nederland, Texas to terminal facilities and refineries in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Upon its proposed completion in the latter part of 2018, the pipeline will transport excess crude stemming from sources as far away as Canada underground from Lake Charles to St. James, Louisiana, where it will be redistributed to refineries in the Baton Rouge area. The BBP website claims [2] that Louisiana will experience multiple economic benefits resulting from the pipeline construction including: 2,500 local construction jobs, generate $17.6 million in sales tax for local businesses, an estimated $35 million in new investments with Louisiana-based companies, and pay annual property taxes estimated to be $1.8 million for the first year the pipeline is in service.

Project area:182
Level of Investment for the conflictive project750,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:300,000
Start of the conflict:26/07/2017
Company names or state enterprises:Energy Transfer Partners (formerly Sunoco Logistics). (ETF) from United States of America
Philipp 66 Partners, L.P. from United States of America - Pipelin Construction
Relevant government actors:Governor of Louisiana, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Louisiana Bucket Brigade,
H.E.L.P. Association
350 New Orleans,
L'eau c'est la vie camp,
Center for Constitutional Rights,
Atchafalaya Basinkeeper,
the Waterkeeper Alliance,
Gulf Restoration Network,
Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association,

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Noise pollution, Oil spills
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:Alternatives pipeline pathways are being proposed to protect vital wetlands and overexposed, vulnerable communities.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project is still moving forward, despite delays resulting from mobilization.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Bill Text: LA HB727 | 2018 | Regular Session | Chaptered

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] O'Rourke 2007. Critical Infrastructure, Interdependencies, and Resilience

[3] Moteff and Parfomak 2004. Critical Infrastructure and Key Assets: Definition and Identification

[4] Robert, Secor, and Zook 2014. Critical Infrastructure: Mapping the Leaky Plumbing of US Hegemony

[2] Bayou Bridge Pipeline Industry Website

[5] Dermansky March 2018. Bayou Bridge Pipeline Opponents Say Louisiana Governor’s Office Is Surveilling Them


[7] Pastor Leads Lawsuit Opposing Bayou Bridge Pipeline to Protect Louisiana Cancer Alley Community

[8] Louisiana Judge Rules Bayou Bridge Pipeline's Coastal Use Permit Is Illegal

[9] Bayou Bridge Pipeline Faces Mounting Legal Challenges in Louisiana

[10] Addressing False Claims About Pipeline Jobs in Louisiana

[11] Bayou Bridge Pipeline Threatens The Riches Of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin

[12] Public Records Request to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality for Documents Related to Bayou Bridge Pipeline

Official site of the 'Water is life' camp

Meta information

Contributor:Julie L. Snorek, Clark University, [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3675



Bayou Bridge Pipeline Map (NOLA) | The Times-Picayune Bayou Bridge Pipeline route map

Louisiana Pipelines and Platforms - photo

Protest Sign - Governor's Office

Louisiana Bucket Brigade founder Anne Rolfes at a press conference protesting Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ treatment of anti-pipeline activists. (Photo: © Julie Dermansky)

Bayou Bridge Pipeline halted by property rights challenge Updated Sep 10, 2018.


Existing Pipeline Canal in Atchafalaya Basin

Dean Wilson, executive director of the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, shows off an existing pipeline canal in the Atchafalaya Basin on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. The same canal would be used for the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline. (Photo by Brett Duke, | The Times-Picayune)