Groups sue to stop Bayou Bridge pipeline, which received permit - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Groups sue to stop Bayou Bridge pipeline, which received permit for greater capacity than publicized

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Several Louisiana groups on Thursday sued to stop the Bayou Bridge pipeline project that's received the permits necessary to begin construction.

Atchafalaya Basinkeeper announced the lawsuit in an afternoon press release.

“Not only is the Atchafalaya Basin the most important ecosystem for neotropical migratory birds in the western hemisphere, but it is also critically important to protect much of south Louisiana and the Mississippi valley from major river floods,"Atchafalaya Basinkeeper executive director Dean Wilson stated in the release. "By allowing unsustainable development in the Basin, we are endangering hundreds of cities and communities and millions of people in southern Louisiana.”

The federal petition also includes Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association, West; Gulf Restoration Network; Waterkeeper Alliance; and Sierra Club and its Delta Chapter as plaintiffs. Lawyers with Earthjustice are representing them.

“We have a right to a healthy environment. If the Cajun people of Louisiana had challenged the first pipeline when it came through Louisiana, we wouldn't be facing the environmental mess that we have in coastal Louisiana and the Atchafalaya Basin,” Jody Meche, a commercial crawfisherman with the Louisiana Crawfish Producer's Association, West, stated in the release. “It is the right thing to do to challenge the construction of a new pipeline by Energy Transfer Partners, which has a track record of flagrantly violating environmental laws.”

Suit: Corps permit violates federal environmental law

The lawsuit claims that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated federal environmental laws in its approval of the project.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires agencies to prepare an environmental impact statement for "major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." The plaintiffs claim that the Corps disregarded a lot when it found the project would have no significant impact, like the pipeline company's spill record and the project's potential impacts on flooding and restoration projects, among other factors.

The plaintiffs claim the Corps also failed to consider alternatives to the proposed project, as NEPA requires, like connecting to existing pipelines or a "restoration alternative" that would require the company to remove legacy spoil banks in the Basin.

They also claim the Corps didn't consider the cumulative effects of another piece of oil development in Louisiana, "where oil development has caused innumerable environmental harm and human health problems over time," and that they only considered "the economic benefits of operating the pipeline" and not the costs of leaks and spills.

Additionally, the plaintiffs claim the Corps permit violates the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act.

Suit: Project permitted for greater capacity than publicized

As proposed, Bayou Bridge was to carry up to 280,000 barrels of oil a day, but the final permit allows the project to carry up to 480,000 barrels of oil — another issue with which the plaintiffs take issue. 

"This dramatic increase in capacity within a fixed pipeline diameter has significant consequences for the risks of spills, and their impacts. However, these consequences were neither disclosed nor analyzed by the Corps in the permitting process," the suit claims, also adding that the existing pipeline system is operating under capacity — even as it was described as critical infrastructure.

The Bayou Bridge pipeline would stretch from Lake Charles to St. James and mark the tail end of a cross-continental pipeline system carrying oil from North Dakota's Bakken/Three Forks oil region. 

The project is a joint effort between Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco and Phillips 66. ETP and Sunoco merged last year.

Pennsylvania environmental officials just ordered Sunoco to stop construction on a natural gas pipeline there after lodging dozens of environmental violations against the company and finding "egregious and willful violations" of state law. Ohio is also suing ETP for spilling millions of gallons of drilling fluid during pipeline construction there.

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