In Louisiana's coastal master plan, wetland forest is about $115,000 per acre to replace. This pipeline's damages are about $69 Million in trees alone. That's before accounting for flood damages. What will be the impact to drainage of removing and culverting many streams in Jefferson Davis, Acadia, and Lafayette Parishes? What will be the added cost to the public for absorbing this new risk of flood, and the increased risk of oil spills? How much would it cost to replace the drinking water for Terrebonne, Lafourche and Assumption Parishes?
Export Pipeline does not account for Flood Damages
A recent editorial on an Energy Transfer Partners pipeline spoke to the benefits of the large crude oil export pipeline. These benefits are advertisements. What we need are solid promises written into a contract with the public in an Environmental Impact Statement. Pipeline advocates have ignored the cost to Louisiana--our economy and our land. Our wetlands and waters are much more valuable than the company has let on. Louisiana wetlands provide billions in ecological services like flood protection every year.
These are the risks ETP asks us to bear, for their profit. For too long, we have borne these risks and our state has only grown poorer. We have thousands of pipelines and hundreds of pipeline spills every year. Companies are neither taxed nor fined for their damages to our land and water. No doubt there are benefits, but our state has already funded Energy Transfer Partners to the tune of $1.7 Billion in tax cuts. Shouldn't we spend our money on water treatment, schools and hospitals? Why are we bankrupting our trust of clean air and clean water?
The simplest courtesy would be to record these promises made, in the permit language. That way, the government can weigh them against the cost that Louisiana would pay in flood protection and ecosystem services. The quickest way to do this is in an Environmental Impact Statement. The company has, so far, avoided documenting its costs and benefits to Louisiana because it fears that it would not come out on the winning side. They should have more confidence in themselves. As a state, we have to say, it's time to put up or shut up. Conduct an Environmental Impact Statement and weigh the costs and benefits of the project.
Scott Eustis is GRN's Coastal Wetland Specialist