Water Protectors Document Bayou Bridge Violations in Fragile Coastal Zone Amidst Ongoing Fast-Paced Construction
Regulatory Agencies Take No Action
(Bayou Bridge Pipeline Route in St. James Parish, LA)
Join Pastor Harry Joseph and Water Protectors tomorrow (5/15) at noon central time via a livestream to see evidence of ongoing violations.
Bayou Bridge LLC is exploiting the lag time between a recent ruling by Judge Alvin Turner and a coming work stoppage order with rushed, dangerous construction in St. James Parish, a region in Louisiana’s Coastal Zone. The company appears to be flouting permit requirements as it attempts to maximize work time. Photographs of the violations are on the Louisiana Water Protector Facebook page.
During two monitoring trips along the route in St. James Parish last week, Louisiana Water Protectors documented an absence of sediment controls in multiple locations where construction was underway. Absence of silt fencing or other sediment controls can lead to discharge of sediment into nearby navigable public waterways, a violation of the 404 permit granted by the Army Corps of Engineers to Bayou Bridge LLC. “We need these ditches for drainage,” said Pastor Harry Joseph, leader of the H.E.L.P. organization. “Bayou Bridge should not be leaving piles of dirt in vulnerable areas that could wash into our ditches and fill them in.”
Sediment controls are particularly important in communities like St. James, which is already under threat from increased climate-change related rainstorms. When drainage channels are blocked by sediment from construction, water from ditches can back up into residents’ yards, flooding these areas with water and with petrochemical residues from the surrounding petrochemical facilities. The route running through St. James is the Coastal Zone, a sensitive area vital to Louisiana’s protection from storms.
To date, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) – the agency responsible for enforcing sediment controls along the pipeline route – has failed to respond properly to citizen complaints, claiming that the oil and gas industry is exempt from stormwater management regulations.
St. James Parish already bears a disproportionate impact from petrochemical industry spills and accidents. “Bayou Bridge LLC is moving forward with construction in St. James under the exact conditions that are most likely to cause an accident,” said Sarah Howard, the coordinator of the Water Protector Monitoring Program with the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “As this company’s track record demonstrates, they are more than willing to compromise public health and safety in the name of maximizing profit.” According to a recent report by Greenpeace and Waterkeeper Alliance, Energy Transfer Partners averages an accident or oil spill every eleven days.
District Judge Alvin Turner ruled on April 30 that the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources had illegally granted a Coastal Use permit for the construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline through St. James Parish, L.A. In anticipation of a pending official stoppage of work order, the company has doubled down on construction in this area.
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. The pipeline would cut off the community’s one evacuation route.
As the judge wrote, “The permit application does not include an emergency response plan nor does it address potential spills that may occur after construction once the pipeline is operational.”
Pastor Harry Joseph, plaintiff in the successful suit against LDNR, will join Water Protectors tomorrow at 10:30am in St. James Parish
For more information and to see pictures from Water Protectors’ recent monitoring trips in St. James Parish, please see the Louisiana Water Protectors Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/153859232082856/
Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 504-452-4909, firstname.lastname@example.org