Dirty Louisiana Politicians Are Getting Paid To Push A Pipeline Through Black & Indigenous Communities

Fossil Fuels

Published on September 22nd, 2020 |
by Johnna Crider

September 22nd, 2020 by  


Southerly has reported that public records show a Louisiana lawmaker is getting paid to push a proposed 280-mile Delta Express pipeline through Black and Indigenous communities. Ryan Borriaque (R) is not only a Louisiana lawmaker, but also the Vice President of Development for Venture Global LNG, Inc. He currently serves as a State Representative for District 47, while being paid by Venture Global to push its interests. Proof of this is in one of the letters obtained by Southerly.

Venture Global, the company building the Delta Express pipeline, hasn’t reached out to the public to see how it feels about its pipeline in Lafourche Parish — where Ingram lives. The pipeline is still in the permit stage and hasn’t yet submitted its formal application to FERC or acquired state permits. However, emails from the company show that it has tried to influence state and federal permitting agencies by employing Representative Ryan Bourriaque (R-Abbeville), who is the vice chair of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

These emails were obtained by Southerly through a public records request and are pretty damning. The emails are between the Energy and Policy Institute and Bourriaque who negotiated with the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) about a separate Venture Global pipeline crossing a Mississippi River levee CPRA is planning to elevate.

“Guys, I know you all are busy. I’m trying not to be a pest,” wrote Bourriaque in one of the emails. The language of this shows, to me, just how deeply linked Bourriaque is with his employer — not the State of Louisiana, but the fossil fuel industry that is paying him to be a pest. That’s not all — Bourriaque is even going as far as to get other Louisiana lawmakers involved. He created a template letter for them to send to FERC in support of the Delta Express pipeline.

The other lawmakers who Bourriaque sent the template letter to included Senator Edward Price (D), Rep. Clay Schexnayder (R), Rep. Johnny Berthelot (R), Rep. Ken Brass (D), and Rep. Tony Bacala (R).

The Template Letter To Secretary Kimberly Bose, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

The template letter that Bourriaque wanted his fellow lawmakers to spam FERC with reads as follows:

Re: Venture Global LNG Delta LNG & Express Pipeline Support (Ascension)

Dear Secretary Bose,

As members of the legislative delegation of Ascension Parish, we humbly submit this letter of support on behalf of Venture Global LNG and the proposed Venture Global Delta LNG and companion Delta Express pipeline project. With the Venture Global Calcasieu Pass project under construction, many residents and businesses in Southwest Louisiana and the State, in general, are seeing opportunity.

Ascension Parish is home to several large-scale industrial facilities in the energy sector. As this effort moves further in the process, we are excited about the prospects of creating even more opportunities for our students, workers, and residents. With an estimated 2,500 construction jobs at peak and 250 permanent jobs, once the facility is operational, this project has promise for significant state-wide impacts on our economy.

Our delegation humbly requests your favorable consideration of allowing the Venture Global LNG Delta LNG & Delta Express Pipeline project to progress through the process.

Regular Citizens Are Having Their Voices Silenced

The article shared the story of Dorothy Ingram — one of many in the small town of Raceland, LA — who has received few details about the natural gas pipeline that would slice through historic Black churches and graveyards in their community. Raceland is around 40 miles west of New Orleans.

Ingram wrote a letter back in 2019 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the agency that approves interstate natural gas pipelines. “We have been treated unfairly and without meaningful involvement. We as a community did not have a meeting in our area to participate in the plan.”

The pipeline would go through 14 parishes and connect to an existing natural gas pipeline in northern Louisiana to a liquid natural gas facility in Plaquemines Parish. For those who don’t know the geography, Plaquemines is Louisiana’s southernmost parish and will be hit the hardest by coastal erosion and sea-level rise. In fact, these are expected to claim at least 55% of the land.

Itai Vardi, an Energy and Policy Institute researcher told Southerly, “Regular citizens are having a harder time voicing their opposition to projects that impact them directly. At the same time, you see that there’s an acceleration with industry insiders using their cozy relationship with elected officials to influence decisions.”

Ray Martin, an attorney for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, a federally recognized tribe whose citizens mostly live in Avoyelles and Rapides parishes, asked FERC to consider the impacts that the pipeline would have to both environmentally and culturally sensitive areas. The path of the pipeline would cross the “heartland” of the tribe — an area that may contain burial grounds.

FERC already knows about several potential issues with the pipeline. Some of these include impacts to wetlands, air quality, and environmental justice communities. The Tunica Biloxi tribe also asked FERC to consider the pipeline’s impact on climate change and sea-level rise — especially since the pandemic is still raging on. “The tribe really has concerns about expanding fossil fuel use when we have a global respiratory pandemic occurring,” Martin said.

Following The Money Trail

Southerly noted that financial disclosure forms showed that Bourriaque started working as vice president of development for Venture Global shortly after he was elected in 2019. He has reviewed CPRA provisions for allowing a liquid natural gas export project to be built along a Mississippi River levee — which, in my opinion, is really, really dumb. Did he forget about the hurricanes? He reviewed these provisions before they were sent to the Plaquemines Parish coordinator.

In his defense, Bourriaque told Southerly that most legislators hold full-time jobs outside of public office. The public office is considered a part-time position that pays a base salary of $16,800. However, his emails with the CPRA are evidence of an elected official lobbying a state entity on behalf of private interests, Naomi Yoder, a science review specialist for Healthy Gulf, explained to Southerly. “I think that would be pretty standard if he was representing his district. But he’s representing a company. He’s trying to wear both hats.”

Two more issues that Southerly pointed out are:

1. Louisiana’s lawmakers often side with petrochemical companies. Louisiana has cracked down on opposition to oil and gas projects.

2. President Trump also is making it more difficult to slow down pipeline construction. Just recently, his administration moved to weaken the National Environmental Policy Act — one more reason Trump is a threat to our environment. This agency requires other federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of infrastructure projects such as pipelines.

Final Thoughts

I am not surprised. Louisiana is well known for its oil-rich and dirty politics. I remember when Governor Edwin Edwards got sentenced to prison for racketeering. My mother always said that it seemed like people in Louisiana would vote for the worst politicians — the dirtiest. They do this, she would say, because they know they are dirty and won’t be surprised when the news breaks of crimes and scandals being committed.

It seems to me that she was wrong. They don’t vote for the worst because they know these are the worst. People vote blindly, thinking the worst are the best thanks to great marketing. This is more evident today than it was 19 years ago when former Governor Edwins was found guilty.

I think — the dirtier the politician, the more beautiful the marketing ads. They work harder to polish their image so you will vote blindly. Voter suppression is no longer obvious — it’s coded into that beautifully designed social media graphic about supporting our vets that is advertised as patriotism.

Even though Louisiana has some of the dirtiest politicians, we also have some of the kindest, warmest, most generous people here. Don’t let our politics fool you — there are good people here. There are good people everywhere. You just have to look — and believe in the good. 
 


 


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About the Author

is a Baton Rouge artist, gem, and mineral collector, member of the International Gem Society, and a Tesla shareholder who believes in Elon Musk and Tesla. Elon Musk advised her in 2018 to “Believe in Good.”

Tesla is one of many good things to believe in. You can find Johnna on Twitter