I’m a crawfisherman. For three generations, my family has made its living from the Atchafalaya Basin. Most days, I rise before dawn to hit the water and tend to my traps. On average, I pull in 160 pounds of crawfish.
I am proud of how I earn my living. Together with my fellow crawfishermen, I contribute roughly $300 million to the state of Louisiana each year.
Right now, my living is under threat. When I first started out, I could get what I needed to support my family from 250 traps. These days, in order to pull in a sufficient haul, I am forced to work double that number of traps because the crawfish and its habitat have been damaged by the carelessness of oil and gas companies.
Miles upon miles upon miles of oil and gas pipelines crisscross the Basin. In fact, if you took every pipeline in Louisiana and laid it end to end, you could encircle the Earth twice.
For decades, these pipelines have been built by digging canals in the Basin, which generate big piles of dirt, known as spoil banks, and create pools of stagnant water where crawfish and other living organisms are left to die. Over time, this process has changed the water flow in the 1.4 million-acre Basin, our nation’s largest and most precious freshwater wetlands resource. The spoil banks now act as levees that are miles-long and stretch across the wetlands, altering the floodway for the lower part of the state.
And now, Energy Transfer Partners, a pipeline company with a dismal reputation for protecting the environment, wants to build yet another pipeline straight across the Basin. The proposed 162-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline would run from Lake Charles to St. James Parish, permanently altering 77 acres of wetlands, while temporarily altering another 171 acres, according to ETP’s own estimates.
The Bayou Bridge pipeline would bring oil from ETP’s controversial Dakota Access pipeline down to the Gulf of Mexico. ETP representatives have promised that once the pipeline is built, they will leave the Basin as they found it and they will follow the regulations that tell them to do just that.
The problem is that every other company has said the same thing. And a great number have left us with the mess we have now. As for those regulations, enforcement is simply nonexistent.
VACHERIE — A split St. James Parish Council cleared the way Wednesday night for the controve…
What’s more, ETP is already under fire for messes the company left elsewhere. The Federal Energy Regulation Commission recently opened an investigation into the construction of the Rover pipeline in Ohio and West Virginia due to numerous spills, false statements in its permit application and a lack of proper erosion controls.
One spill, involving 2 million gallons of drilling fluid, occurred in a wetland region in Ohio — and every living organism in an area the size of nearly nine football fields suffocated under a slurry of bentonite clay and water that was later found to be contaminated with diesel fuel.
Meanwhile, ETP’s controversial Dakota Access pipeline leaked three times before it was even fully operational. Why should we believe that ETP will do things differently in the Basin, one of the most fragile, and challenging, natural environments in the country?
From my view, oil and gas development is not necessarily a bad idea. Here in Louisiana, it creates jobs and contributes to our economy. However, if oil and gas companies are going to come here and act with flagrant disregard for our way of life, then they are not welcome. Each and every day, I live with the consequences of their irresponsible behavior. Judging from ETP’s actions elsewhere, it is no different from the rest.
Crawfishing is who I am. The Basin is a part of me. I’m not going to let deep-pocketed oil and gas companies continue to tear it apart and destroy my way of life.
Jody Meche is a commercial crawfisherman from Henderson. He is president of the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association – West.