The permit was issued for the last 18-mile stretch of the fracked oil pipeline that would have run through the riverside town of St. James Parish, where dozens of refineries and industrial facilities are already fueling a public health crisis in the mostly African-American community.
The proposed 162-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline would connect the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico.
As noted by the Bridge the Gulf Project, the judge ruled that the permit granted by the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was illegal because it did not take into consideration the impacts the project would have on the town.
In his April 30 decision, made public on Monday, 23rd Judicial District Court Judge Alvin Turner Jr. held, "Once constructed, this pipeline has the potential to impact some of Louisiana's most coveted and ecologically sensitive areas such as the Atchafalaya Basin, as well as other wetlands through Louisiana."
He also wrote, "the permit application does not include an emergency response plan nor does it address potential spills that may occur after construction once the pipeline is operational."
Among other decisions, the court ordered DNR to require the pipeline builders "to develop effective environmental protection and emergency or contingency plans relative to evacuations in the event of a spill or other disaster."
The plaintiffs include St. James residents, H.E.L.P. association, the Gulf Restoration Network, the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and Bold Louisiana. They were represented by the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.
"Here in St. James, we are in desperate need for an evacuation plan that will allow us to get out fast when something spills or explodes," said Genevieve Butler, resident of St. James and petitioner in the lawsuit, in a statement received by EcoWatch.
"More facilities keep coming, and each one puts us at more risk, but none of them want to do anything about our situation. Well, now Bayou Bridge has to step up. I hope all the others see this ruling as a sign that they have to give our community the protection we deserve."
Pastor Harry Joseph of Mt. Triumph Baptist Church and another petitioner added, "It seems like the state agency didn't think too much about the people who live here when it was giving Bayou Bridge this permit, and neither did Bayou Bridge. So we went to court, to somebody who we felt would listen to us, and he did."
In a Facebook post, pipeline opponents L'eau Est La Vie Camp heralded the ruling for "setting the stage for the suspension of a key permit that is needed to construct the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in St. James and other areas in eastern Louisiana."
Patrick Courreges, a spokesman for DNR, told the Times-Picayune the agency's staff believed it was following the rules correctly under state law.
"The court has ruled otherwise," he noted. It is unclear if the DNR will appeal the decision.
Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman Vicki Granado told the newspaper, "We do not typically comment on pending or current litigation. We would like to reiterate, however, that we will continue to follow all of the stipulations of our permits, as we have always done."
The energy company has reported hundreds of thousands of gallons of spills from pipelines between 2015 and 2016, according to a report from the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and DisasterMap.net. Energy Transfer Partners and its subsidiary Sunoco have filed 69 accidents in two years to the National Response Center, the federal contact point for oil spills and industrial accidents.
That's 2.8 accidents every month, the analysis said, adding that "these are just the accidents that are reported."
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
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Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.