BATON ROUGE – A 19th Judicial District judge has refused to order an additional records search in the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards in a case brought by activists including environmental group Louisiana Bucket Brigade to stop construction of an oil pipeline.

The activists claimed relevant records provided to them earlier by Edwards’ staffers were missing. However, in refusing the second records, request Judge Wilson Fields maintained the governor’s staff had provided documents as best they could and had made additional documents available once it was discovered they hadn’t been provided.

John Bel Edwards
John Bel Edwards | Hayride

The action comes on the heels of a refusal by Judge Michael Caldwell in late January to compel the owners of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline to turn over company project records to the Louisiana Bucket Brigade under the state's public records laws. Caldwell maintained such laws do not apply to a private for-profit company.

The activists had contended Bayou Bridge is subject to the Louisiana Public Records Act because in seizing 400 land parcels for the project, they say the pipeline company was acting as an “instrumentality of the state,” according to a Jan. 25 Washington Post report.

The 162-mile crude oil pipeline, a joint venture between Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66 LP, will extend from Lake Charles to James Parish, about 60 miles west of New Orleans. Construction on the project began last month. 

On completion, the pipeline could supply 20 million gallons of crude oil per day.

Activists contended the pipeline will traverse and threaten ecologically fragile wetlands, lakes and swamps, and endanger public drinking water.

The Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and Bucket Brigade sued Bayou Bridge in January to get access to company records, including communication with government agencies. The requested documents included emails between former Sen. Mary Landrieu and public relations professional Randy Hayden. Both had lobbied to gain pipeline approval.

Anne Rolfes of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade questioned whether Edwards had the public’s best interest at heart.

“For months the governor refused to meet with people whose drinking water and communities are under threat from the Bayou Bridge Pipeline,” she told the Louisiana Record. “I wondered if he was meeting with the company and we had to sue to get that information.”

Rolfes said the pipeline issue revolves around who the governor listens to and sticks up for.

“It ought to be the people who elected him, not some oil company from out of state, a company with a track record of pollution and human rights violations," she said.

However, Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman Alexis Daniel expressed confidence the project will move forward.

“We’re excited the remitting process has been finalized and we look forward to completing the project and going into service,” she said.

A PennEnergy report from Jan. 25 said a separate lawsuit to block construction of the pipeline is pending in federal court.

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