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USA: Environmental groups & landowners file several lawsuits challenging Bayou Bridge oil pipeline project

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12 September 2018

Landowners sue Bayou Bridge, claiming pipeline company improperly seized private land

Author: Steve Hardy, The Advocate (USA)

Landowners fighting Bayou Bridge have fired back at the pipeline builders and challenged whether oil companies may seize private land generally, and whether Bayou Bridge in particular followed the law...Property owners filed new documents...that question whether oil companies may take land at all.  The Louisiana constitution allows gas pipeline builders to seize property under eminent domain, but only after a public hearing and upon receiving clearance from the state Department of Natural Resources, attorney Pam Spees, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said in an interview.  However, there aren't any rules...for how oil pipelines are regulated when oil companies want to take land under eminent domain, she said...Some of the property owners have argued that Bayou Bridge construction crews entered their...plot without permission and before the eminent domain suit could be settled...[T]he litigants said that while many consented to allowing Bayou Bridge to run through their land, others did not...Energy Transfer Partners did not respond to a request for comment...Earlier...the pipeline company agreed to stay off the land until an expropriation hearing scheduled for Nov. 27.  However, a Bayou Bridge spokeswoman said the decision would not push back their planned October completion date.  The company has argued in court that Louisiana law permits common carriers of petroleum products to expropriate private land if they are acting as a public utility...

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9 July 2018

USA: Appeals court rules Bayou Bridge oil pipeline construction can continue

Author: KTAR News (USA)

"Court: Louisiana oil pipeline construction can continue", 6 July 2018

Construction of a crude oil pipeline through Louisiana’s environmentally fragile Atchafalaya Basin swamp can continue under a federal appeals court decision handed down Friday.  A divided panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.  The 2-1 decision was a victory for Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC, whose lawyers had urged the panel to throw out U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick’s injunction in April.  Dick issued a preliminary injunction in February stopping pipeline construction in the Atchafalaya Basin swamp until a lawsuit by project opponents is resolved...Dick concluded the project’s irreversible environmental damage outweighed the economic harm that a delay brought to the company...But Friday’s opinion...said Dick had “misperceived the applicable regulations,” and that the Corps’ environmental assessment was sufficient...

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18 March 2018

Bayou Bridge Pipeline gets green light

Author: Emily Fontenot, American Press (USA)

Construction on the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in the Atchafalaya Basin will soon resume after a temporary stay...A federal appeals court...cleared the line to continue work in the basin, reversing a decision by a lower court three weeks earlier to halt construction while an environmental lawsuit against the company progresses.  The lawsuit...challenges the Army Corps of Engineers’ finding of no significant impact from the project...[E]nvironmental groups plan to continue the suit in hopes that the court will come around to their viewpoint, said head of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper Dean Wilson...He called the decision to lift the ban “completely reckless.”...

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27 February 2018

Crucial U.S. Pipeline In Legal Limbo

Author: Nick Cunningham, Oilprice.com

A federal judge halted construction on the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana, holding up the last missing puzzle piece in a pipeline network that stretches from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast.

The project, a joint venture between Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, would run from Lake Charles to St. James, two existing oil hubs with refineries and other processing facilities. 

...A U.S. District Judge issued a preliminary injunction that halts construction on Bayou Bridge, until the lawsuit brought by a set of environmental groups can be adjudicated. The lawsuit argues that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the Clean Water Act when it issued permits for the project.

The groups, including the Sierra Club, argue that Bayou Bridge represents a threat to the Atchafalaya Basin and the communities that depend upon it, and they argue that the government needs to conduct a full environmental assessment. ...While the Army Corps insists that it conducted the necessary environmental reviews, the plaintiffs allege that the risks of an oil spill were not adequately considered.

...ETP said that it will lose $1 million per day while construction is halted. ... ETP also said that it would appeal the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

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26 February 2018

Company building Bayou Bridge pipeline seeks halt of work stoppage, says cost is almost $1M per day

Author: Steve Hardy & David J.Mitchell, The Advocate

...U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick in a preliminary injunction Friday halted pipeline construction by Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC.

...[S]pokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, the majority investor in the pipeline project, said Monday that construction within the Atchafalaya Basin has been stopped.

Bayou Bridge lawyers have also asked the judge to suspend her work stoppage order, saying the construction halt would cost the company almost $1 million daily. They have asked Dick to resolve that request by Tuesday and want the suspension of the work stoppage while they pursue an appeal with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs in the suit and the protesters who gathered Monday in Belle Rose are both battling Bayou Bridge, but to different ends. Much of the testimony in the suit discussed the harm being done to the Atchafalaya Swamp. The plaintiffs urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to order the pipeline company to perform meaningful work to offset the damage locally, such as by repairing existing oil infrastructure. The protesters, meanwhile, viewed the pipeline as inherently unsafe and demanded its complete removal.

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26 February 2018

Energy Transfer Partners appeals revocation of Louisiana pipeline permit

Author: Liz Hampton, Reuters

An Energy Transfer Partners subsidiary on Monday appealed a ruling by a federal judge in Louisiana that halted construction on a portion of its Bayou Bridge crude oil pipeline, according to court documents. 

The motion came after U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick on Friday issued a preliminary injunction revoking a needed permit for the pipeline, which is already under construction.

Environmental groups and local fisherman have opposed the line, citing concerns about the environment and local economy. A portion of the pipeline would run through the Atchafalaya Basin, a nearly 1 million acre wetland in southern Louisiana that is a critical component of the state’s commercial fishing industry and flood protection system. 

Representatives from Energy Transfer Partners did not respond to a request for comment. 

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24 February 2018

Permit revoked for Energy Transfer Partners' Louisiana pipeline

Author: Liz Hampton, Reuters

A federal judge in Louisiana on Friday revoked a permit for Energy Transfer Partners’ Bayou Bridge crude oil pipeline, halting work on a portion of the project following protests by local and environmental groups.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick in Baton Rouge underscores the growing clashes between energy pipeline operators expanding operations to accommodate new oil and gas flows from U.S. shale fields and environmentalists concerned about spills and other hazards. 

Energy Transfer Partners declined to comment, saying it would wait to review the judge’s opinion, which was not included with the order. 

Friday’s ruling granting a preliminary injunction requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to revisit its approval of the pipeline’s construction through the Atchafalaya Basin, according to the decision.


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17 January 2018

Louisiana environmental groups turn to courts in Bayou Bridge pipeline battle

Author: Steve Hardy, The Advocate

Opposition to the proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline is heating up as environmental groups turn to the courts to challenge not just the regulators who allowed the project, but the company behind the venture.

The conservationists filed a petition in the 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge on Tuesday in hopes of getting a judge to compel Bayou Bridge LLC to turn over various documents. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has also contended that the governor's office is also not meeting its obligations to turn over public records on the project.

...Pipeline opponents worry that the public is being left in the dark on the construction of the proposed 162-mile crude oil pipeline 

... In seeking land for Bayou Bridge, the company claimed it could expropriate property under eminent domain because the pipeline is "in the public interest and necessity," the lawsuit quotes. If Bayou Bridge can seize people's land to bury oil infrastructure for their own profit, the company should be subject to public records laws, the suit contends.

...In.. response to the suit, a Bayou Bridge spokeswoman said..that the pipeline will be a safe and reliable project that will contribute $1.8 million in property taxes in its first year and $17.6 million in sales tax during construction. However, the statement did not address the public records issues raised in the lawsuit.

...In December, the Bucket Brigade filed a lawsuit against the governor's office, claiming it failed to adequately respond to a records request for information related to the pipeline. 

...In addition to the public records suits, there are also pending suits against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. Pipeline opponents are asking the U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge and the 23rd Judicial District Court in St. James, respectively, to overturn those agencies' approval of Bayou Bridge.


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17 January 2018

Louisiana Pipeline Project Spurs Demand for Land-Grab Records

Author: Sabrina Canfield, Courthouse News Service (USA)

Three environmental groups filed a lawsuit accusing a Louisiana pipeline company of refusing to hand over records about its claim to easements across hundreds of residents’ private properties.

The lawsuit, filed..by the Center for Constitutional Rights, claims 400 parcels of private property are being taken for the construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC – which is majority owned by Energy Transfer Partners, which also owns the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as by Phillips 66 and Sunoco – has tried to seize even unwilling homeowners’ land on the pretext that “it has legal authority to exercise eminent domain and take private property because it is a ‘common carrier’ under Louisiana law and that its proposed pipeline is ‘in the public interest and necessity,’” according to the complaint brought on behalf of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Louisiana Bucket Brigade and 350 New Orleans.

The conservation groups claim that, in 2016, before it received the required permits for the proposed pipeline, Bayou Bridge Pipeline “began pursuing easements and/or servitudes across privately-owned property and expropriating the properties when negotiations with landowners failed.”

...In response to a request for comment ...Energy Transfer Partners avoided addressing claims that it is improperly taking land from hundreds of residents and dodging records requests.

...environmentalist groups said in a news release that Energy Transfer Partners’ existing pipelines have a terrible track record for spills and violating regulations...

...Tuesday’s lawsuit is just one of several legal actions taken in the past few months by groups opposed to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline...This week’s lawsuit calls for an expedited hearing. A date has not yet been set.

[Also refers to Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC]

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16 January 2018

Groups opposing planned pipeline sue company for records

Author: Janet McConnaughey, Associated Press

Environmental groups trying to keep a crude oil pipeline from crossing Louisiana filed a lawsuit Tuesday to get access to records about the project.

By expropriating land and acting as a common carrier, Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC is acting as a government body and therefore must obey public records laws, the suit contends.

...Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and 350 New Orleans sued Bayou Bridge after representatives of the joint venture refused to turn over records about property rights, environmental safety and civil protest. Among other things, the groups are asking for all records about acquiring easements and private property expropriations, and all records of communications with government agencies or officials at all levels.

...Bayou Bridge did not immediately respond to a query filed through its website....Energy Transfer Partners, the majority owner of the project, did not immediately respond to an email.

...The company expropriated land when negotiations failed as it acquired rights of way or other agreements with more than 400 property owners, according to the lawsuit.

The environmental groups sued the Army Corps of Engineers last week, contending that its approval of a permit for Bayou Bridge violated the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws.

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