Cypress Forests, Saudi Profits

Louisiana Cypress

With new wetland-destroying schemes offered by the fossil-fuel industry every week here in coastal Louisiana, it’s easy to develop a sort of ‘enviro-fatigue.’ Most recently, Maurepas Pipeline LLC has exemplified the nonsensical with its plans to lay more than 100 miles of pipe through the Maurepas Wildlife Management Area (WMA).

All told, this particular potential project would destroy over 335 acres of priceless Cypress forest. Just fewer than 200 of these acres would fall within the WMA, an expanse ironically dedicated to preserving nature.

The proposed Maurepas Pipeline System involves three segments: a 35-mile pipeline set to run from outside Convent to Norco, a matching 35-mile counterpart to move the opposite east-to-west direction, and a final section expected to travel 34 miles west-to-east from the west bank of Saint James Parish to Norco. Together, these stretches of steel will form what’s also branded as the ‘Louisiana Refining System.’

Although Maurepas Pipeline LLC will own, construct, and maintain the aforementioned, the crucial player here is Motiva Enterprises. Motiva operates three Gulf-Region refineries, one of which is in Port Arthur, Texas. Recent renovations have made this Port Arthur location North America’s single largest refinery. Motiva’s remaining two assets are not-so-coincidentally near Convent, and in Norco.

Through the creation of the Maurepas Pipeline System, Motiva hopes to link its Louisiana refineries to optimize both plants’ conversion units, improve logistical efficiency, ease dock congestion, and allow for more product export. To quote its CEO, “[O]ur Louisiana Refining System will rank in the top five of North American refineries in capacity and deliver significant value to Motiva’s portfolio.”

Is there anything wrong with just delivering significant value to Motiva’s portfolio?

Well, for starters, the crude oil transported to and refined at these sites will be the ‘fracked’ kind. Though overshadowed by the Bakken Region in North Dakota, Texas’ nearby Eagle Ford formation is a hotbed for fracking activity. Since gooey black stuff possesses little worth in itself, the recent surge in domestic oil production has stretched regional refining demand.

Diving a bit deeper though, Motiva Enterprises exists as a joint venture between Shell Oil Company and Saudi Refining. Shell Oil is of course the American branch of Royal Dutch Shell, while Saudi Refining is a subsidiary of Saudi Aramco. Unlike here where fossil-fuel companies just influence our government, Saudi Aramco is the actual Saudi government. 

In today’s Internet-enabled world of unprecedented connectivity, ignorance cannot be an excuse for tolerating injustice. Our perpetual reliance on fossil fuels has led to the immense concentration of power and wealth, in this case in the hands of a backward government. While the possibility of losing 300+ acres of invaluable Cypress forest ought to be reason enough to stop this project, the funding of morally corrupt profiteers has to be. 

It’s worth mentioning that upon first uncovering this project we at GRN thought the Maurepas System would carry material sourced from Canadian tar sands. Given the present fossil-fuel landscape and the intentional vagueness of “crude oil,” our presumption wasn't wholly unfounded.

Regardless, thank you for all the public comments submitted a few months back! The Department of Natural Resources has set a Public Hearing for Thursday, August 13th at 6 PM at the Saint John the Baptist Central Library (2920 Highway 51, LaPlace, LA 70068). Please attend to make your literal voice heard on this pressing matter.

James Hartwell is GRN's Water Resources Intern and recently received his Master's of Science in Public Health.