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Controversial Dakota Access Pipeline may reach Acadiana - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Controversial Dakota Access Pipeline may reach Acadiana

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The Dakota Access oil pipeline / Courtesy of MGN Online The Dakota Access oil pipeline / Courtesy of MGN Online

Oil transported through the pipeline at the center of protests in North Dakota may soon make its way into Acadiana.

A proposed 161-mile pipeline, called "Bayou Bridge" and ultimately connected to the Dakota Access Pipeline, would bring fracked oil to south Louisiana. The pipeline would cut beneath 11 south Louisiana parishes, more than 600 acres of wetlands and more than 700 local waterways, including the Atchafalaya Basin, the Vermilion and Mermentau Rivers and the Bayou Teche.

Dean Wilson, executive director of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, said, "The main problem we have with the pipeline is lack of enforcement from the Corps of Engineers. They don't have a single person reviewing the permits to make sure they're in compliance with the permits." 

Wilson says he's not against oil exploration, but he wants it to be done correctly and legally, citing concerns about ensuring the pipelines are properly maintained to protect Louisiana's fragile environment.

Construction has already begun on the pipeline from Texas to Lake Charles. The proposed addition would tack on more pipeline under south Louisiana's wetlands. 

"It would have a huge impact on water quality. The water cannot flow through the swamps anymore," Wilson says.

That's something he says would also pose a threat to crawfish and the people and animals that depend on them.

"Everything feeds on crawfish in the Atchafalaya Basin — otters, minks, alligators and people. You know, there's people that make a living. They produce more crawfish than any other wetland in the world, and it's certainly being affected by those out-of-compliance pipelines," Wilson says.

One of the companies involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline and "Bayou Bridge" is Sunoco Logistics.

Scott Angelle, who's in the runoff this week for the 3rd congressional district seat, sits on the board for Sunoco Logistics.

When questioned two weeks ago about environmental concerns involving oil and gas pipelines, Angelle said responding to those concerns involves a balance between environmental, consumption and business interests.

"What we need to do in America is we need to make certain that we are being sensitive to ever environmental concern, but at the same time, we have an absolute duty to continue to progress in this country to not only explore for the energy that we need to fuel this country but to produce it and refine it," Angelle said.

A public hearing about the project is set for January 12 in Baton Rouge. This comes after 75,000 people signed a petition for public comment.

Click here for more on that hearing, including how to submit public comment if unable to attend the meeting.

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