Judge Stops LA Pipeline Construction
A federal judge has halted construction of a new 160-mile stretch of crude oil pipeline in Louisiana after ruling federal environmental approvals were not given proper consideration.
The Bayou Bridge Pipeline expansion, which would add 163 miles of 24-inch oil pipeline between Lake Charles and a hub in St. James, is on hold now after Judge Shelly Dick issued a stop-work order last Friday (Feb. 23) and followed up with a full opinion Tuesday (Feb. 27).
Work in the Atchafalaya Basin, a national heritage area that runs down the center of the state, has been stopped, while construction on other sections of the pipeline are allowed to continue.
About the Pipeline
The Bayou Bridge expansion, worth an estimated $750 million, is being undertaken by a partnership between Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66 Partners, two large energy conglomerations that have oil and gas pipelines throughout the United States. The first section of the pipeline, which stretches from Nederland, Texas, to Lake Charles, went online in 2016 and transports multiple grades of crude through 30-inch pipeline.
The goal of the expansion is to create a link between hub facilities in Nederland and the St. James hub for distribution throughout the Gulf Coast. The pipeline will eventually transport 480,000 barrels of crude per day.
In her opinion, Dick ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was “arbitrary and capricious” in issuing a “finding of no significant impact” last year, which allowed the project to forego a longer environmental impact statement. The Corps issued its final approvals in December.
Bayou Bridge Pipeline said in a statement that it "respectfully disagrees with the District Court's ruling" and that it intends "to seek immediate relief."
The Atchafalaya basin includes the Atchafalaya River and related wetlands, comprising the country’s largest river swamp. The Army Corps oversees the Atchafalaya, which includes acres of bottomland hardwoods and is the site of the harvest of nearly 22 million pounds of crawfish annually, according to the National Heritage Area.
The Bayou Bridge Pipeline partners say their contractor, Stupp Corporation, will install buoyancy control devices, including concrete coating, on pipeline installed in wetlands. On its website, the partnership says it will restore 100 percent of any affected area, “at the company’s own expense.”
The partners say the new build will follow existing infrastructure through the basin, and in any wetlands or agricultural areas, the pipeline will be buried down at least 48 inches.
Part of the environmental approval from the Corps included the purchase of credits from “mitigation banks,” preserving some wetlands to offset the effects of the construction on some parts of the Atchafalaya Basin. Dick challenged the idea that the mitigation credits purchased are a fair trade-off for potential destruction of cypress forests in the basin.