Appeals Court to Decide if Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction Can Continue

By Ayana Byrd Apr 30, 2018

Nearly one year after the Dakota Access pipeline became fully operational, the company behind it is locked in another legal battle. Energy Transfer Partners is in court today (April 30) in an attempt to overturn a judge’s order to halt construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline.

Bayou Bridge is a 163-mile pipeline that Energy Transfers Partners needs to install to bring the Dakota Access to its full potential. If completed, Bayou Bridge will carry 48,000 barrels of crude oil a day through the Dakota Access to Illinois, ultimately arriving at terminal facilities and refineries in St. James, Louisiana. Bayou Bridge is the final link in the Bakken Pipeline, the name given to the collection of pipelines in the project.

As ABC News reports, “Sierra Club and other environmental groups sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in January, saying it violated the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws when it approved a permit for the project.”

In February, Baton Rouge-based U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ruled in favor of environmental groups and issued a preliminary injunction stopping all Bayou Bridge pipeline construction work in the Atchafalaya Basin, the nation’s largest river swamp, until the lawsuit is resolved.

From ABC News:


Dick concluded the project’s irreversible environmental damage outweighed the economic harm that a delay brought to the company. The judge said the project potentially threatens the hydrology of the basin and "poses the threat of destruction of already diminishing wetlands." She also agreed with environmental groups that centuries-old "legacy" trees can’t be replaced once they’re cut down.

One month later, a panel from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals suspended Judge Dick’s order and allowed construction to continue pending a decision in the lawsuit.

Today, another three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals will hear arguments from federal regulators, attorneys for Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC and environmental groups. They will decide if Dick abused her discretion in ordering the injunction.

Opposition to the pipeline has been ongoing since last year. As Colorlines previously reported, a resistance camp called L’eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) opened in June 2017. It’s populated by Indigenous and environmental justice communities, and its name is in the indigenous-colonial Houma French language. The United Houma Nation is one of the tribes whose members are challenging the pipeline.

Environmentalists in the region are concerned with the impact the pipeline could have on the crawfishing industry if a spill occurs. Landowners are opposed to the pipeline out of concern that Energy Partners will take away their land, which the company has done with other pipeline projects, including Dakota Access.