USA: Environmental groups file several lawsuits against Louisiana pipeline project including in relation to access to information

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Article
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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Article
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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Article
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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Article
15 December 2017

No Bayou Bridge Pipeline

Author: Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)

The three companies that built, own, and operate the Dakota Acccess Pipeline in North Dakota—Phillips 66, Sunoco, and Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)—have formed the Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC, and aim to construct a 162-mile pipeline that would affect 11 parishes in Louisiana and cut across 700 waterways, including through the Atchafalaya Basin.

...ETP contracts with private security corporations to handle public opposition to its pipeline operations. One of these companies is TigerSwan.  Detailed investigative journalism revealed how TigerSwan has engaged in military-style counter-insurgency operations in attempts to divide and discredit the efforts of pipeline opponents. 

...CCR is also supporting local groups to closely examine the extent that corporations involved in Bayou Bridge might have unduly influenced relevant executive agencies and offices of the State of Louisiana...In each case, the requests seek to disclose communications between these executive offices and agencies and the companies involved in the pipeline. ..CCR has also issued a public records request directly to Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC and ETP for communications relevant to the pipeline project, since Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC has claimed, and has exercised, the state government's authority of eminent domain, thereby acting as an 'instrumentality of the state', to expropriate Louisianans' land in the process of developing the pipeline.  

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