Department of Natural Resources Defies Judge’s Order, Fails to Halt Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction in Coastal Zone
(New Orleands, LA)
A state agency’s failure to enforce a judge’s order to halt construction of the controversial Bayou Bridge Pipeline has left residents in the coastal zone, including the African American community of St. James, abandoned and without the protection of the law. State Judge Alvin Turner’s April 30th decision remanded the coastal use permit back to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR), but the agency is refusing to use its authority to halt the construction that is rapidly continuing in the area (photographs available on the Louisiana Water Protector page). “For so long we had no one who would help us or listen, and now Judge Turner has ruled in our favor,” said Pastor Harry Joseph, President of the H.E.L.P. Association of St. James. “The Department of Natural Resources needs to enforce the law and protect us.”
Eighteen miles of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline run through the Louisiana coastal zone, an area that includes St. James Parish. In his April 30th decision, Judge Turner sided with the plaintiffs – the H.E.L.P. Association of St. James, the Gulf Restoration Network and Atchafalaya Basinkeeper – in ordering LDNR to re write the permit and require that Bayou Bridge LLC develop “effective environmental protection and an evacuation plan.”
An LDNR spokesman claimed, in a statement to DeSmog Blog, that the agency does not have the legal authority to enforce Judge Turner’s order. “The Judgement states that there’s no permit until an evacuation plan is in place, and yet LDNR is allowing construction to block the only possible way in and out of Burton Lane during a chemical incident. It’s unconscionable for this company to defy the order, to operate without a permit in St James, and to endanger Louisiana residents in St James,” said Scott Eustis, Community Science Director at the Gulf Restoration Network.
In failing to enforce the law and protect the people of Louisiana, the Department of Natural Resources continues the practice of effectively acting on behalf of the oil industry, buying time for Bayou Bridge LLC to finish construction in the coastal zone and thereby rendering Judge Turner’s decision moot. Louisiana Water Protectors have documented shoddy, rushed construction along the pipeline route in violation of the company’s permit requirements. “The state is speaking out of both sides out of its mouth, on the one hand pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a coastal zone program, and yet looking the other way as Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC digs it up and destroys it,” said Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “The Department of Natural Resources is giving Bayou Bridge a pass to damage the coastal zone and suffer no consequences.”
In his decision, Judge Turner sided with the plaintiffs and their claim that LDNR had failed to consider the potential impact to the community in the event of an emergency, a significant issue given the record of spills and accidents of Bayou Bridge, LLC’s parent company Entergy Transfer Partners. The community of St. James is burdened with the highest concentration of crude oil pipeline disasters in the State of Louisiana, according to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration data. The National Response Center data, including self reports by industry, detailed 37 accidents in a 14 month period in St. James Parish. According to a recent report by Greenpeace and Waterkeeper Alliance, Energy Transfer Partners averages an accident or oil spill every eleven days.
“DNR’s duty as a regulatory agency is to hold companies accountable and protect the people and environment of Louisiana,” said Meg Logue with 350 New Orleans. “This duty is especially crucial when you have a rogue operator like Energy Transfer Partners, with a history of defying regulators and court orders. Who are the people of Louisiana supposed to turn to when all of the agencies with authority pass the buck?”
Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, (504) 452 – 4909, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dustin Renaud, Gulf Restoration Network, (228) 209-2194, email@example.com