A pipeline construction company has been selected to build 55-mile segment under Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin. This decision, however, is being challenged by environmental protection groups.
If built, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline would be an extension of an existing pipeline, which began operation in early 2016 from Nederland, Texas to Lake Charles.
The new segment of the pipeline would begin in Lake Charles and end at existing terminalling facilities in St. James, Louisiana.
If the project goes through as ETP would like, they estimate it to be in service by the second half of this year.
A press release from Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) on Monday, Jan. 29 states, “When complete, the pipeline is intended to provide a more efficient and environmentally friendly way to transport North American crude oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast.”
The Sierra Club Delta Chapter on Tuesday, Jan. 30 responded to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' announcement of the approval of their permit for the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. “The Sierra Club Delta Chapter strongly condemns the approval of an U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit allowing a company with a proven history of pipeline leaks to construct a 162-mile long crude oil pipeline through our nation’s largest river swamp, the Atchafalaya Basin.”
Sierra Club Delta Chapter Director Julie Rosenzweig, originally from Abbeville, Louisiana, pointed to a natural gas pipeline operated by ETP that exploded earlier this month in a fire near Sommerville, Texas. This is just one example of the company’s “solid history of leaks and accidents,” she said.
ETP estimates that the project would generate an estimated $17.6 million in sales tax for local businesses such as restaurants, hotels and stores due to goods and services purchased during construction.
"Losing the delicate wetland forest in the path of this pipeline will cause damage that no amount of money can fix,” Rosenzweig said. “No amount of money can regrow what Energy Transfer Partners is cutting down today.”
An injunction filed on Tuesday, Jan. 30 asks for a halt to the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline. It generally takes about four to six weeks before a hearing for the injunction, Rosenzweig said.
The group also filed for a temporary restraining order that would have immediately stopped construction pending the outcome of the preliminary injunction. It was denied but written reasons for the denial have not yet been issued.
They made this request to stop construction from moving forward while a lawsuit filed on January 11 is being considered by the court.
The lawsuit contends that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued permits and authorizations for the 162-mile pipeline without adequate environmental review - in a violation of the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Executive director of the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper Dean Wilson said, “Not only is the Atchafalaya Basin critical for migratory birds and the persistence of Cajun culture, but it also protects millions of people from Mississippi River floods. It is negligent for our agencies to continue allowing unrestricted oil development in the Basin without enforcing our environmental laws."
The Sierra Club’s Jan. 30 press release states federal data shows that ETP and its subsidiary Sunoco Inc. have been responsible for at least 329 "significant" pipeline incidents across the country in the last decade, and ETP was responsible for five spills from their new Dakota Access Pipeline in the first six months of operation.
Gulf Restoration Network Senior Policy Director Matt Rota said, "All we are asking is that the people impacted by this pipeline get their day in court before ETP does irreparable harm to the Atchafalaya Basin and the Louisianians who rely on it.”
Thursday, Feb. 8 is the next hearing on the preliminary injunction at the Federal Courthouse in Baton Rouge.