Louisiana Court Okays Controversial Pipeline Through Wetlands
The owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline just won a controversial court approval to construct another pipeline through Louisiana protected wetlands.
An appeals court in Louisiana ruled that the state’s Department of Natural Resources was correct in issuing a permit for the construction of a pipeline through fragile wetlands and despite residents concerns over the environmental and health repercussions.
The ruling came Wednesday in a 4-1 verdict in favor of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline project which is to be built in an area known as “cancer alley.” The area is known as cancer alley because of the high number of refineries and chemical plants plus the poor health of local residents.
The lone dissenting judge, Marc Johnson, wrote that the state agency’s responsibilities under the Louisiana Constitution require preserving health and the environment as much as possible, but that it instead “gave significant consideration to the economic benefits and minimal consideration to the environmental effects on the wildlife and habitats … [and] virtually no consideration to the impact on the human lives” in the area traversed by the pipeline, as Courthouse News reported.
The lawsuit was first filed in 2017 in St. James parish by the Humanitarian Enterprise of Loving People, Gulf Restoration Network, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Bold Louisiana and two local residents.
The lawsuit claimed the Department of Natural Resources was incorrect in issuing a permit for the pipeline’s construction because it will cross protected wetlands and the local area has no evacuation route in case of an emergency. The lawsuit also argued an emergency like a chemical spill was likely.
District Court Judge Alvin Turner in St. James Parish agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled last April that the permit for the pipeline’s construction violated state law. Turner ordered the pipeline construction halted, pending the appeals verdict.
Turner found in his ruling that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did not apply state-mandated guidelines on oil and gas companies and agreed that the DNR should have required an evacuation plan in case of a spill.
The appeals court, however, disagreed. The majority opinion ruled in favor of the pipeline and stated that the DNR sufficiently vetted the project prior to issuing the construction permit.
The judges found that the DNR “conducted a systematic consideration of all pertinent information regarding the use, the site and the impacts of the use and a balancing of their relative significant public benefits with adverse impacts.”
The appeals court also agreed with the DNR’s decision to issue the permit without an evacuation plan in place and clamed an evacuation plan was the local government’s responsibility and not the pipeline company’s. They also agreed “there is no indication in the record that the proposed pipeline will change existing evacuation routes.”
But Judge Johnson in his dissent disagreed, saying “the analysis does not consider the overall welfare of the public when placing the pipeline in an area already inundated with chemical facilities.”
Johnson also said the Louisiana Constitution requires that natural resources of the state, including air and water, shall be protected and “replenished insofar as possible and consistent with the health, safety, and welfare of the people.”
The Bayou Bridge Pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which also built and owns the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Bayou Pipeline will span 162 miles and carry almost half a million gallons of oil a day across 11 Louisiana parishes and 700 bodies of water and will be the final leg connecting the Dakota Access Pipeline.