BATON ROUGE — Construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline will continue, a federal judge has ruled, casting aside objections from environmental groups that tried to put a stop to the construction of the final leg of the project due to concerns about the impact it will have on the land and wildlife.

At the center of the dispute is Energy Transfer Partners’ construction of the last 25 miles of the pipeline, which would span 162 miles through the Atchafalaya Basin.

“Phase I of the pipeline, which consists of a 30-inch pipeline from Nederland, Texas to Lake Charles, Louisiana, went into service in April 2016,” Energy Transfer Partners wrote on its website. “Phase II of the pipeline, which will consist of 24-inch pipe from Lake Charles, Louisiana to St. James, Louisiana, is expected to be completed in the second half of 2018. When completed, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline will be capable of transporting up to 480,000 barrels per day of light and heavy crude oil from different sources to the St. James crude oil hub, which is home to important refineries located in the Gulf Coast region.”

On Feb. 8, environmentalists opposing the pipeline construction testified before U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick in an effort to halt construction. Their main goal was to get the court to enact a preliminary injunction to stop the construction until a lawsuit between the environmental groups and the Army Corp of Engineers has been settled. Dick ruled against the preliminary injunction. 

The Army Corp of Engineers is being sued by Earthjustice, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Sierra Club for allegedly infringing on the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws after it approved a permit for Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66 Partners LP to begin construction. Court documents allege the Army Corp of Engineers acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” by approving the permit without considering the environmental impact.

According to the Sierra Club, the Atchafalaya Basin is “the largest contiguous bottomland hardwood forest in North America and is essential habitat for thriving populations of mammals, fish and amphibians.”

Dick had previously rejected the environmental groups’ request for a temporary restraining order against Energy Transfer Partners on Jan. 30.

“The latest trend is after not finding success on the regulatory front time and time again, the environmentalists turn their sights on the courts to try and stop the growth and success of our job producers, especially Louisiana’s oil and gas industry,” Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, told the Louisiana Record.

“Oil and gas pipelines are the safest way to transport product across the state and the Bayou Bridge Pipeline will follow existing pipelines as to minimize its environment impact,” Briggs added. “The Bayou Bridge Pipeline will bring much needed jobs into our state and give Louisiana a chance to lead the U.S. into energy dominance.

The environmental groups plan to continue their lawsuit and many opponents to the pipeline are protesting around the construction sites, according to the Sierra Club.

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