How Low Will Energy Transfer Partners Go When It Comes to Threatening Water Protectors?

by Lauren Reid

August 10, 2018

We’ve said it before but let’s say it again: when it comes to human rights, Energy Transfer Partners’ abusive tactics towards those who oppose its pipelines has gone too far — but the past week has only emphasized how much worse it’s getting.

Water Protectors at L'eau Est la Vie Camp in Louisiana and others have been recently subjected to a bevy of egregious tactics by Energy Transfer Partner's security firm. ©L'eau Est la Vie Camp Facebook

Last week, 63-year-old retired school teacher and grandmother Ellen Gerhart was sentenced to 2-6 months in a Pennsylvania jail because Sunoco, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), claimed she had interfered with construction on her property — land that was seized by the company via eminent domain for the Mariner East 2 project. This is a scheme which, after a lengthy legal battle, allowed the company to take it against her wishes to build its pipeline.

Ellen Gerhart is facing 2-6 months in jail for protecting her land. ©Camp White Pine/Facebook

What is striking about this case is not only the bizarre allegations leveled against Gerhart by ETP — that she purposely baited bears onto the site to threaten construction workers — but that the jail authorities thought her such a threat they held her in solitary confinement for most of the week between her arrest and sentencing. It should be noted that this came on the heels of a 4,000 gallons spill of drilling fluid by ETP on her property, threatening the family’s drinking water, which was exactly what her objections and historical evidence had predicted would happen.

“Energy Transfer Partners is yet again fabricating charges against my mom in attempt to silence her. Look at who has actually inflicted damage here: ETP has poisoned dozens of families’ wells across the state, spilled over 100 times, and harassed and intimidated anyone who opposes them.” — Elise Gerhart, Ellen’s daughter, in a written statement after the sentencing

This is just one of many grim events that have occurred during the #RiseTogether Weeks of Action, a series of solidarity and resistance efforts against pipelines and the banks that fund them all across the U.S. As we’ve documented before, ETP has shown a real predilection for using a vast swath of unethical and inappropriate tactics against those that stand up to its pipelines to protect water, farmland, and Indigenous rights. So while it was hardly surprising that ETP is yet again employing such egregious methods, what is shocking is how the company’s pursuits are becoming even more dangerous, and are being used with greater frequency.

How bad has it gotten, you ask? L’eau Est la Vie Camp, the group fighting against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana, has been facing escalating threats and physical attacks from ETP’s private security firm tasked with monitoring the pipeline construction. Footage shows activists being ripped from their kayaks, while another was assaulted with the butt of a rifle. Here’s what the Water Protectors at L’eau Est la Vie Camp have been facing in the last week alone:

Aug 9th, 2018:

On the morning of August 9th, three kayaktivists were abducted by ETP’s private security and subsequently arrested while protecting some of that last untouched swamp in the Atchafalaya Basin.

The Water Protectors were breaking no laws as they were using their kayaks in navigable public waters, a protected right in Louisiana. Moreover, corporate private security should not have the power to abduct and detain people.

BREAKING!Three Water Protectors Arrested in the Atchafalaya Basin. This morning three of our folx on kayaks were…

Posted by L'eau Est La Vie Camp – No Bayou Bridge on Thursday, August 9, 2018


Aug 6th, 2018:

In one of the more terrifying situations faced this week, an ETP contractor began threatening Water Protectors on kayaks. Days later, the same contractor returned with multiple guns, aimed a shotgun at Water Protectors and used the butt of the shotgun to physically assault one of them. The video below is audio from the first altercation with the activists:

ETP Contractor Attacks Water Protectors With Shotgun

UPDATE. Our people are safe after an armed ETP contractor attacked and threatened water protectors at the site of our ongoing blockades in the Atchafalaya Basin.In the video below you can hear this contractor threatening water protectors on kayaks. This video was shot on Saturday. Yesterday this same contractor returned with multiple guns, aimed a shotgun at water protectors and used the butt of the shotgun to physically assault one of them.Despite this attack, today we once again shut down multiple Bayou Bridge Pipeline construction sites in the Basin. But at some sites, pipeline workers illegally continued construction despite the presence of water protectors in the direct vicinity.More footage from the swamps is coming soon. ***Please support our resistance.More then anything we need more water protectors to come join us on the frontlines. If you personally know someone at camp or who is involved with our struggle, reach out to them and then make plans to come here. Otherwise please fill out this application form to join us: can also organize a solidarity action against the banks funding this violence: www.nobayoubridge.globalAnd donate to support our movement: #StopETP #Resist

Posted by L'eau Est La Vie Camp – No Bayou Bridge on Monday, August 6, 2018


Aug 4th, 2018:

Two men from ETP’s private security began cutting extremely close to tree sitters in the path of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Both men were directly threatening the lives of activists who were putting their bodies on the line to stop this pipeline:

ETP’s henchmen, aka hired off-duty jailers from the Department of Corrections, are protecting workers cutting…

Posted by L'eau Est La Vie Camp – No Bayou Bridge on Saturday, August 4, 2018


If one thing is abundantly clear, it’s that ETP will literally stop at nothing to get its pipelines built — as quickly as possible and with little concern for laws or the communities in its wake. These increasingly heinous tactics are yet another reminder of why we must put a stop to these pipelines, continuing to push back against one of the greatest threats to our environment. Frankly, local communities shouldn’t have to spend their days fighting for their land while having guns pointed at them, or assaulted while peacefully protesting. We all know in our bones how absolutely unacceptable this is.

Enough is enough.

Please help amplify these stories to your community and continue to stand in solidarity with all those who have been forced to put their lives on the line to protect their water, land, and fundamental rights. Tell banks like JPMorgan Chase that it is time to stop providing financial support to companies like ETP — who have proven time and again that its record on human rights is utterly shameful.

Lauren Reid

By Lauren Reid

Lauren Reid is the International Communications Lead with the Clean Air Now Campaign. She first volunteered with Greenpeace on the Rainbow Warrior in 2015, for a campaign against overfishing and human rights abuses observed at sea. Lauren is based in New Orleans, LA and you can peep her on Twitter @Lo_Pickles.

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