Quantcast
Energy
Crawfisherman Jody Meche drives through Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin on his way to check his traps. Emily Kasik

Why a Crawfisherman Is Fighting the Bayou Bridge Pipeline

By Emilie Karrick Surrusco

Jody Meche and his family have harvested crawfish from Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin for generations. When he set his first trap in the 1980s, he hauled in an abundant catch. These days, his traps come back full of dead crawfish.


Meche holds the oil and gas industry responsible for the steady destruction of a way of life that depends on the bounty of our nation's largest river swamp. The industry dodged regulations and built hundreds of pipelines throughout the basin. The construction left behind mounds of dirt—known as spoil banks—that have systematically destroyed the water quality and created so much sediment that crawfish and other living organisms suffocate.


The Atchafalaya Basin is located in southern Louisiana. The proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline would connect the Dakota Access pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico.

Energy Transfer Partners, a company with a dismal record of protecting the environment, aims to build a new 162-mile pipeline across the basin to connect its controversial Dakota Access pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico. Earthjustice attorneys are representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their legal challenges against that pipeline.

Meche and others are speaking out against the proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline, which would cross 700 bodies of water and impact 600 acres of wetlands. The Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit on Dec. 14 for the project. Earthjustice plans to challenge that decision. Meche shared his thoughts as the fight to protect the Atchafalaya Basin from the Bayou Bridge pipeline headed toward a new stage.

What is special about the Atchafalaya Basin?

"The Atchafalaya Basin is unique to the whole world. There's nowhere else like it. It's home to hundreds of species of migratory birds—there's bald eagles, so many bald eagles—and alligators, fish and so much more. It provides subsistence for the Cajun people.

"We've made our living from the basin for over a century, it gives us food for our families. For me, it's my way of life. It's where I grew up. It's what I know, it's what I've learned."

Crawfish, like this one held up by Jody Meche, are having trouble surviving due to pipeline infrastructure.Emily Kasik

How has oil and gas development affected the basin?

"They created these pipeline right-of-ways, and instead of flattening out the dirt they excavated, they left it. They interrupted the water flow. And every year, the ecosystem has been on the decline. The crawfish are to the point where they won't live in our crawfish traps unless we let the traps stick out above the top of the water so they can come up for air. The water quality is so poor they can't get enough oxygen out of the water.

"When I first started fishing, you hardly had any problems with crawfish dying. You could set your traps on the bottom, five or six feet in the water, and the crawfish would all be alive.

"Now you go back, and all the crawfish are dead underwater."

How could additional oil and gas development in the basin affect the region's ability to fight flooding and other types of damage during hurricane season?

"It's unbelievable how much these pipelines have caused the bottom to fill up with sand. The bottom used to be below sea level in a lot of areas, and now it's 20 to 30 feet above sea level. In the springtime when you see all these rivers and all these houses flooding all up and down the Mississippi Valley, the Ohio River Valley, the basin is supposed to be able to receive a lot of that water and flow it through to the Gulf of Mexico. They know it can't—so they flirt with disaster every year."

Oil and gas infrastructure in the basin, where hundreds of pipelines have been built.Emily Kasik

Why don't you trust Energy Transfer Partners to do the right thing?

"It would be a hell of a feat to gain my trust. These companies don't hold up to their end of the bargain. They don't abide by the permits. They don't abide by the regulations. And nobody has held them accountable."

"I'm not opposed to oil and gas. We have a need—we have a tremendous dependence. But with the amount of money these companies make, there's no excuse for them to destroy our Earth the way they have. They have to go back and fix the problems they've caused for the environment."

"I've worked in the oil and gas industry. I know they can do a better job than the way it's been done."

Why did you reach out to Earthjustice for help on this issue?

"It seemed like our only hope. We've tried everything. We've met with governors, we've met with legislators, we've met with colonels with the Army Corps of Engineers, with state agencies, federal agencies—we've met with everybody. We can't hold these people accountable. The state of Louisiana is so controlled by the oil and gas industry, you can't get anything done. It seemed like we had to go outside the state, to someone who cares about our natural world."

What keeps you going in this fight?

"My love for the world I live in. I believe it's my God that's guiding me. He's working through human beings—I'm one of the human beings that he's working through so I can't give up the fight.

"Our natural resources out there, our natural environment and our ecosystems, I've got to give a voice to them and try to scream foul for what has taken place over so many decades. They can't speak for themselves. They can't defend themselves. The trees and the fish and the water and the animals and the birds, somebody has to speak for them."

Around the world, a powerful shift away from fossil fuels toward clean energy is underway—but change won't come fast enough without a concerted fight.

Alongside communities in states across the country, Earthjustice attorneys are fighting pipelines like Bayou Bridge, export terminals and other major fossil fuel infrastructure projects that would seek to lock us into a fossil fuel-fired future.

The challenges we face are not insurmountable. The path to a clean energy transformation is rapidly emerging—and we can all play a role in clearing that path in time to limit temperature rise and guarantee our future. Stay updated on this fight.

Many residents attending a community meeting in Napoleonville, Louisiana, on the Bayou Bridge pipeline on Feb. 8, 2017, voiced their opposition to the project.Emily Kasik

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular
Old White Truck / Flickr

The Last Straw? EU Official Hints Ban on Single-Use Plastic Across Europe

A top EU official hinted that legislation to cut plastic waste in Europe is coming soon.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the European Commission, made the comment after Britain's environment minister Michael Gove, a pro-Brexiter, suggested that staying in the EU would make it harder for the UK to create environmental laws such as banning plastic drinking straws.

Keep reading... Show less
Flare from gas well. Ken Doerr / Flickr

Court Orders Trump Administration to Enforce Obama-Era Methane Rule

A federal judge reinstated a widely supported methane waste rule that President Trump's administration has repeatedly tried to stop.

Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled Thursday that Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) decision to suspend core provisions of the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule was "untethered to evidence."

Keep reading... Show less
On Jan. 24, 2017 President Donald Trump signed a memorandum to expedite the Keystone XL permitting process. Twitter | Donald Trump

Inside the Trump Admin's Fight to Keep the Keystone XL Approval Process Secret

By Steve Horn

At a Feb. 21 hearing, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Trump administration must either fork over documents showing how the U.S. Department of State reversed an earlier decision and ultimately came to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or else provide a substantial legal reason for continuing to withhold them. The federal government has an order to deliver the goods, one way or the other, by March 21.

Keep reading... Show less
Health

New Black Lung Epidemic Emerging in Coal Country

In a study released this month by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), federal researchers identified more than 400 cases of complicated black lung in three clinics in southwestern Virginia between 2013 and 2017—the largest cluster ever reported.

However, the actual number of cases is likely much, much higher as the government analysis relied on self-reporting. An ongoing investigation from NPR has counted nearly 2,000 cases diagnosed since 2010 across Appalachia.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Dennis Schroeder / NREL

The Facts About Trump’s Solar Tariffs – Who Gets Hurt? Who Gets Helped?

By John Rogers

The solar-related shoe we've been expecting has finally dropped: President Trump recently announced new taxes on imported solar cells and modules. There's plenty of downside to his decision, in terms of solar progress, momentum and jobs. But will it revive U.S. manufacturing?

Keep reading... Show less

Japan Confirms Oil From the Sanchi Is Washing Up On Its Beaches

By Andy Rowell

The Japanese Coast Guard has confirmed that the oil that is being washed up on islands in the south of the country is "highly likely" to have come from the stricken Iranian tanker, the Sanchi.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Dave Keeling

Is Constant Human Noise Stressing Out Wildlife?

By Jason Daley

A major study earlier this year showed something incredible. Looking at 492 protected areas in the U.S., researchers found that 62 percent of the parks, wilderness areas and green spaces were twice as loud as they should be. About 21 percent were 10 times as loud. Noise isn't just annoying—chronic exposure to traffic, generators and airplanes can lead to negative consequences for wildlife. Researchers like Nathan Kliest are just getting a handle on exactly how all that noise impacts animals. Kliest, formerly of the University of Colorado Boulder and now at SUNY Brockport, recently investigated the impact of chronic noise on birds in the Southwest.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Activists campaigning to regulate glyphosate in the European Union. Avaaz / Flickr

Monsanto 'Commands' Civic Group to Turn in All Communications Over Glyphosate

Avaaz, a civic campaigning network that counts roughly 45 million subscribers around the world, has been served with a 168-page subpoena on behalf of agribusiness giant Monsanto.

The document, dated Jan. 26 and sent from New York Supreme Court, "commands" the U.S.-based organization to turn in a decade's worth of internal communications by Friday, Feb. 23.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!