The companies building the Bayou Bridge Pipeline have spilled 87,273 barrels of hazardous liquids in 527 separate events in the past 15 years, according to a report entitled "Oil and Water" released Tuesday by Greenpeace and the Waterkeeper Alliance.
Authors Tim Donaghy and Donna Lisenby culled through federal records of spills between 2002 and 2017 involving Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco — which merged last year — plus their subsidiaries and joint ventures. Phillips 66 is also a Bayou Bridge partner, though ETP is the majority shareholder in the project, which is under construction and designed to carry crude oil underground 163 miles between Lake Charles and St. James.
ETP, Sunoco and their subsidiaries released 3.6 million gallons of hazardous liquid, enough to fill 5½ Olympic-sized swimming pools, the authors wrote, citing data from the Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration. Most was crude oil, though there were also spills of refined petroleum products and other flammable or toxic materials, plus an additional 2.4 million gallons of drilling fluids, sediment and industrial waste created by drilling two pipelines through the Rust Belt.
ETP is "clearly a serial water polluter," Lisenby said in a conference call with reporters.
Oil industry officials have repeatedly defended pipelines, saying they are far safer than trucks, ships and railroads, especially with new technologies being developed. So much oil flows through American pipelines, and almost all of it arrives safely, they've said.
"In 2016, the Energy Transfer family of companies transported 1,424,694,595 Barrels (a 23% increase over 2015) of onshore crude, onshore (highly volatile liquids,) and onshore refined and/or petroleum products through approximately 79,700 miles of pipeline of which 99.99% was delivered safely to its intended destination (versus 99.96% in 2015)," spokeswoman Vicki Granado wrote in a Tuesday email to The Advocate. "While our goal is to maintain a 100% delivery rate, we are pleased with the results of the constant improvement processes we have in place."
Fearful of large-scale protests like those that surrounded the Dakota Access pipeline, Louisiana legislators have joined their counterparts in…
Environmentalists, however, remain unimpressed and continue to push for a greater focus on renewable sources of energy.
Donaghy said he was alarmed that the spills have continued at a steady rate, with no indication they'll cease any time soon. That's one reason the paper uses its findings to argue against Bayou Bridge. If that pipeline has spills at the national rate, it would release eight significant spills in the first five decades, they argue. A significant spill is defined as the release of at least 50 barrels. One barrel contains 42 gallons.
Bayou Bridge will eventually connect with facilities in Nederland, Texas. ETP officials have said that having another more-efficient route between Texas and Baton Rouge-area refineries will improve safety because it will lessen reliance on other, more dangerous methods of transportation. On the Bayou Bridge website, the company writes that it will also have the benefit of being able to refine more American crude, decreasing reliance on foreign supplies.
There have been 11 incidents in the Nederland area, though only one was significant — a 2004 spill at a Sunoco facility that released 100 barrels, according to an interactive map released with the "Oil and Water" report.
The largest spill on the books occurred at a Sunoco tank farm in Pennsylvania in 2005, when a worker's mistake released 436,000 gallons of crude oil. The oil was contained, and the company was fined $150,000. Other top 10 major spills, however, harmed wildlife, leaked into sewers, caught fire or contaminated waterways, including Tete Bayou near Mooringsport in 2014, the report states.
One reason ETP is so disliked by environmental groups is for its involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline, which sparked widespread protests for its potential threats to the environment and for crossing native American lands. That pipeline, which began operations last year, has already reported seven spills, Donaghy and Lisenby wrote.
Meanwhile, the company emphasizes the economic impact of additional infrastructure, including millions of dollars paid for land access, approximately 2,500 construction jobs, and additional tax revenue.
"The real facts on the economic benefit of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline are being misrepresented by a small number of those who don’t want you to know the truth," the company wrote on its website.