Our Views: Build modern, safer pipeline

Our Views: Build modern, safer pipeline

Advocate Editorial, January 23, 2017


With Louisiana already criss-crossed by pipelines, is there a need for another?


The market appears to see it, with a "Bayou Bridge" line to be built across 11 parishes from Lake Charles to St. James Parish.


It has become a focal point of criticism from environmental groups, but we encourage regulators to support the pipeline unless there is found some compelling reason not to.


A public hearing in Baton Rouge for a required U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit drew more than 400 people, both for and against the project. Many of the opponents said they fear fouling the state's wetlands.


How is that the case? Modern pipelines built of high-quality metals and continuously electronically monitored are arguably safer than the older transmission lines, and costs would be reduced for refineries in Louisiana's petrochemical corridor.


The Bayou Bridge project is being jointly pursued by subsidiaries of Phillips 66, Sunoco Logistics and Energy Transfer Partners, all three of which have a stake in the Dakota Access pipeline, where controversies raged when tribal groups opposed its path.


We see another pipeline not as a new burden but a safer alternative to moving crude oil with trucks, trains or barges.


It's a $750 million project that has already boosted the Baton Rouge economy with purchase of pipe. As is typical with these projects, there would be few permanent jobs - maybe a dozen, because monitoring of the pipeline's operation and safety can now be done electronically. But more than 2,000 construction jobs would be generated by this project.


Because Bayou Bridge's path involves a small part of the state's Coastal Zone - in Assumption and St. James parishes - a second hearing is Feb. 8 in Napoleonville for a permit from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.


Again, we do not see any compelling reason for this project to be blocked.


Unless one is reflexively opposed to fossil fuel consumption, the rational discussion of this pipeline is based on safety of operation and responsible construction during its path. State agencies and the Corps have a lot of experience with pipelines in Louisiana; as is usual in these cases, the project cost includes environmental mitigation for any loss to wetlands.


The Atchafalaya Basin is one of Louisiana's crown jewels. Much damage was done to it over decades, not only for energy production but the clearing of wetlands for farmland. Today, there are not only vastly better construction techniques but the process is overseen with a lively appreciation by regulators, businesses and the public of the value and importance of the basin.


Louisiana can use the new jobs, both from construction of the new pipeline and its support of the economy of our state's vast petrochemical corridors along the Mississippi and Calcasieu rivers.


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