Energy Transfer Partners will not help make America great again
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On a Thursday evening just a few days before Valentine’s Day, my phone started ringing. I’ve worked to clean up the oil industry for 20 years, and when my phone rings relentlessly, there’s a problem.  

I turned on the television, and there it was: a Phillips 66 gas pipeline explosion in the town of Paradis, La. The local Sheriff stood in front of the raging fire and spoke with the media. “We’re not anticipating environmental, you know, pollution problems,” Sheriff Champagne said.  

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This state of denial about the impacts of fossil fuels began long before President Trump signed an executive order pushing pipelines forward. This denial as well as the impact of ongoing disasters illustrates the need to stop the proposed Energy Transfer Partner pipelines in North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana and around the country. 

Energy Transfer Partners is not a superhero with new powers to prevent fossil fuel disasters. It’s an oil company with a track record of polluting multiple drinking water sources. The record is there for anyone to look up in the database of the National Response Center, the federal point of contact for oil spills. Records from a two year period (2015-2016) show that the company polluted multiple drinking water sources used by millions of people. 

In a proper regulatory environment, Energy Transfer Partners would be chased by squad cars in hot pursuit, sirens blazing. Instead the company gets a police escort and the full support of government. Right into North Dakota. There, the Standing Rock Sioux object to Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access Pipeline for many reasons, including the fact that it threatens the Missouri River, a sacred source of drinking water.  The Standing Rock Sioux are right to have mobilized thousands of people as Water Protectors, for the company has already decimated drinking water sources on the east coast.

“Caller stated that there was a discharge of crude oil at dock area. This incident did impact the Delaware River,” reads one report from 2015. The Delaware River is the drinking water source for millions of people in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Another accident created an oil sheen on the river.  An industry funded economist from the state university here in Louisiana tried to allay concerns about such accidents by noting that the oil spills are small. This argument is nonsense, and a report of pollution in 2015 into the Schuylkill River, a drinking water source in Pennsylvania, shows why. “Petroleum products are releasing from a remediation unit due to a skimmer failure.” The column that details the quantity says “unknown,” as do 29 percent of Energy Transfer Partners accidents in 2015 and 2016. 

Energy Transfer Partners has no idea how much oil they are spilling in our drinking water sources. Or maybe they just aren’t saying.

Here in Louisiana we are fighting Energy Transfer Partners’ proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline. The path would ram right through our Atchafalaya Basin, a swamp that is a national treasure and a source of crawfish. “Keep the oil outta my boil,” has become our rallying cry. We reject the argument about a safe amount of oil, for how much oil do you want in your water or in your crawfish. Half a cup? A barrel?

There’s also a showdown in Texas. There, Energy Transfer Partners is proposing the Trans Pecos Pipeline. “Don’t mess with Texas,” has long been a slogan in that state, but it’s clear there’s an escape clause for the oil industry.  In 2015 – 2016, Energy Transfer Partners had 32 accidents that polluted Texas land and rivers with over half a million gallons of oil. These accidents are calamitous, and the laissez faire attitude by public and elected officials makes it worse. 

Louisiana Sheriff Champagne is the President of the National Sheriff’s Association and traveled to North Dakota in this capacity to see, as he wrote in a Facebook post, the protest and the response thereto to the Dakota Access Pipeline Project.” The Sheriff received the loudest boos of a six hour public hearing about the Bayou Bridge Pipeline when he said that the Water Protectors in North Dakota were violent. The Sheriff made no remarks about the violence of fossil fuels, not even when he stood in front of the conflagration in Paradis. That violence sent two workers to the hospital and killed one man. 

“That’s somebody’s baby,” Cherri Foytlin of BOLD Louisiana said of the worker who was killed, and she was right. A family has a gaping hole and it doesn’t need to be this way, not when safe jobs in renewable energy are possible.

Officials, regulators and of course President Trump will continue to praise these proposed pipelines. Those of us who oppose these dangerous projects hear their words as a eulogy for an industry that should be nearing its last days. The facts are clear. Over the last two years, Energy Transfer Partners has polluted drinking water sources that millions of people rely on. Their pipelines should be rejected, and until our government wakes up and protects us from a dirty and dangerous industry, we will continue to resist.

Anne Rolfes is founding director of LA Bucket Brigade.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.