By Janet McConnaughey
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — 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.
The 162-mile-long (261-kilometer) pipeline is a joint venture between Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, which built the Dakota Access pipeline, and Phillips 66 Partners LP, which owns a smaller share of the Dakota pipeline. The Dakota project sparked a string of violent clashes between protesters and police in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017.
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.
“We will not allow Bayou Bridge to quietly seize hundreds of people’s land for private profit with no public oversight,” Anne Rolfes, director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said in a news release. “The entire process has taken place behind closed doors, leaving in the dark the local people who bear the risks this dangerous pipeline poses to our health, natural environment, and even our very livelihoods.”
Bayou Bridge did not immediately respond to a query filed through its website. Lee Hanse of San Antonio, Texas, identified on the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website as executive vice president of 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.