Julie Dermansky

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Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University’s Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.

Federal Judge Halts Bayou Bridge Pipeline Installation, But Photos Show Damage Already Inflicted

There was an eerie stillness along the route of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin the day after a federal judge halted work on the pipeline. A temporary injunction was granted two weeks after groups opposed to the pipeline had their say in court, giving Energy Transfer Partners enough time to clear a path through the World Heritage site.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick wrote that she was enjoining further work on the pipeline in the basin “in order to prevent further irreparable harm until this matter can be tried on the merits.” She will release her reasoning for ordering ETP to stop construction in the coming days.

Legal Challenge Filed to Stop Construction of Louisiana's Bayou Bridge Pipeline

Sign at construction site for Bayou Bridge pipeline

Less than a week after construction began on the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana, a coalition of crawfishers and environmental groups took legal steps to immediately shut down the project. As a result, on February 8 a federal judge will review a request filed this morning from Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, which seeks to halt construction of the pipeline through the Atchafalaya Basin while the court considers the firm’s earlier case challenging the pipeline’s permitting. 

A federal judge has denied the request for a temporary restraining order that would have paused construction ahead of the February 8 hearing.*

Bayou Bridge Pipeline Faces Mounting Legal Challenges in Louisiana

Dean Wilson of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper next to a Louisiana cypress

Though Energy Transfer Partners has all the permits and permissions it needs to start work on the Bayou Bridge pipeline, the project still faces multiple legal challenges. 

The 162-mile pipeline, being built by the same company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, will span southern Louisiana from Lake Charles, near the Texas border, to St. James, about 60 miles west of New Orleans. This route will cut through the Atchafalaya Basin, a national heritage area that contains America’s largest swamp. 

Concerned Citizens in Cancer Alley Vow to Ramp up Battle Against Industrial Pollution in 2018

Robert Taylor next to an EPA air monitor

This past year in Louisiana’s St. John the Baptist Parish, a small group of residents began organizing their community to compel the state to protect them against an invisible menace: the air they breathe. Their parish, the Louisiana equivalent of a county, is situated in what’s known as Cancer Alley, an industrial corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that hosts more than 100 petrochemical factories.

At the helm of the battle is the Concerned Citizens of St. John, a diverse group of parish residents pushing back against the area’s historically bad — and worsening — industrial pollution. “One thing we all have in common is a desire for clean air,” the group’s founder, Robert Taylor, told me. Next year, the burgeoning group plans to get political and broaden its reach by banding together with similar groups in the region.

2017 in Photos: Capturing the Causes and Impacts of Climate Change

A dance troop marches past a Shell refinery in Norco, Louisiana's annual Christmas parade

The year 2017 was, in many ways, stormy. It brought more storms super-sized due to global warming and more people, including scientists, taking to the streets in response to the political climate.

This year for DeSmog I continued documenting a range of issues related to climate change, from extreme weather enhanced by it to the expanding industrial landscape contributing to it. 

Pruitt’s Plan to Debate Climate Science Paused as Science Confirms Human Link to Extreme Weather

Chairs floating in Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas

The same week that a slew of new scientific reports confirmed just how much humans are changing the climate, and in turn, the rest of the planet, Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt’s plans for a “Red Team, Blue Team” debate of this very same science were put on hold.

The military-style exercise that would falsely pit the overwhelming majority of climate scientists against a handful of non-experts is an eight-year-old talking point of the notorious climate-denying think tank the Heartland Institute (which is likely not surprised by this development). Meanwhile, last week in New Orleans, several groups of prominent climate scientists shared their latest findings at the world's largest gathering of Earth and planetary scientists. The roughly 25,000 attendees of the American Geophysical Union annual meeting included scientific leaders from academia, government, and the private sector.

With Tribal Blessing, Louisiana Activist Buys Land in Path of Proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline

Cherri Foytlin at the entrance to land in the path of the Bayou Bridge pipeline

On December 16 anti-pipeline activists calling themselves water protectors gathered in Rayne, Louisiana, on land located along the proposed route of the Bayou Bridge pipeline. The gathering occurred two days after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality granted Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) the last permit needed to build the pipeline.

The proposed pipeline would transport crude oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (fracking) from St. Charles to St. James, Louisiana, and cross the Atchafalaya Basin, a national heritage area that is America’s largest natural swamp.

About 35 people took part in a ceremony on land that Cherri Foytlin, director of Bold Louisiana, recently bought for Louisiana Rise, an advocacy group she founded that focuses on renewable energy and a just transition. During the ceremony Foytlin requested and was granted a blessing and permission from the Atakapa-Ishak Nation to use the land that once belonged to the tribe. At the gathering the water protectors strengthened their resolve to stop the pipeline, which would be the final leg of ETP’s Dakota Access pipeline  carrying oil fracked in North Dakota to Louisiana.

TransCanada’s Safety Record Played No Role in Nebraska’s Keystone XL Approval

Cushing, Oklahoma Keystone pipeline sign

Today a Nebraska commission handed TransCanada the final permit it needed to build its long-contested Keystone XL pipeline, a decision which did not consider the company’s previous safety violations. The decision to approve the international pipeline comes despite a major oil spill just a few days earlier from the company’s Keystone l line in South Dakota. Pipeline opponents vowed to appeal the approval, which was for a different, slightly longer and more expensive route through Nebraska than the one TransCanada preferred.

Bayou Bridge Pipeline Opponents File to Intervene in Hearing for Private Security Firm in Louisiana

A broad base of advocacy groups opposed to Energy Transfer Partners’ (ETP) proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline continue to pressure officials in Louisiana to deny the remaining permissions the company needs to build the pipeline.

The groups are also trying to stop TigerSwan LLC, one of the security firms that ETP worked with in North Dakota, from obtaining a permit to operate in Louisiana.

ETP, the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, intends to build a 162-mile pipeline across southern Louisiana. If built, the Bayou Bridge will be the last leg, carrying oil fracked in North Dakota to Louisiana. 

Exxon Refinery Catches Fire Day After Government Settles Over Pollution From Other Gulf Plants

ExxonMobil’s refinery and chemical plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Early morning skies Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were alight from a fire that started around 2:30 a.m. at an ExxonMobil refinery. The blaze, though contained before the sun came up, is a reminder to the surrounding community of yet another danger of living next to refineries and chemical plants.

Exxon’s refinery is located along the stretch of Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans known as “Cancer Alley” due to the high number of chemical plants and refineries — and illnesses possibly connected to emissions — along the river’s banks.

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