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Under-construction Bayou Bridge pipeline may have violated federal permit, Corps says

Posted: 4:55 PM, May 24, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-24 17:55:37-04

Federal regulators are investigating reports that Bayou Bridge Pipeline has violated its construction permit.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has received reports that pipeline workers have created unauthorized spoil banks, blocked navigation or failed to meet sediment containment requirements, Corps spokesperson Ricky Boyett said on Tuesday.

"Each report of unauthorized activity reported to the Corps is evaluated in order of receipt by USACE to determine if the activity is non-compliant as well as remediation measures, if any are required. If the reported activity cannot be properly assessed with the information provided,  USACE will conduct on-site compliance checks," Boyett wrote in an email.

The Corps permit involves the pipeline’s construction through the wetlands. Boyett said the Corps will "conduct an extensive assessment of the pipeline" to ensure "full compliance" once the project is completed.

Another Louisiana Department of Natural Resources permit governs the approximately 17-mile portion of the pipeline under construction through the state’s Coastal Zone. Bayou Bridge has been found out of compliance three times since construction began in January, DNR spokesperson Patrick Courreges said.

Those violations involve "construction of two temporary workspaces that resulted in the impacting of .13 acres each (violations 1 and 2) of land noted as upland agriculture and a further .02 acres of an agricultural drainage feature (violation 3) through the deposition of 5.93 cubic yards of fill. The company was directed to take the structures back out and it has done so," Courreges said.

Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66 own the under-construction pipeline, which will carry oil 163 miles from Lake Charles to St. James. It marks the end of a cross-country pipeline system that includes the protested Dakota Access pipeline.

Construction shutdowns have dogged ETP’s pipeline projects elsewhere in the country, where regulators found the company violated its permits, contaminated drinking water sources and polluted wetlands.

People opposed to the Louisiana project have visited areas across southwest Louisiana to document the construction — and on occasion, to stop the work through protest. They have submitted their findings of potential permit violations to regulatory agencies. 

Courreges said DNR has made 11 visits to the stretch of the project it oversees, where work continues despite a judge’s ruling earlier this month that ordered DNR to reconsider its permit for the project.

The 23rd Judicial District judge found DNR did not adequately consider emergency protocols for the minority community who live near the end of the pipeline in heavily industrial St. James. Those residents sued DNR over the permit, as there’s only one road in and out of the community. Residents have long complained that there’s no alternative way out should a major emergency block its passage.

But because the judgment is on appeal, and because the judge did not issue an injunction to stop work during the appeal, construction can continue, Courreges said.

"We really don’t have any legal standing to tell them to stop, because the judgment on the permit has not yet been made final and no extra step has been taken in the court to say, ‘Stop what you’re doing right now while it’s being decided,’" Courreges said.