January 16, 2018, Baton Rouge, LA– Today, Louisiana groups represented by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit against Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC to make its records available to the public. The groups—including Atchafalaya Basinkeeper Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and 350 New Orleans—are seeking the release of the documents as public records in light of the company’s claim that it has authority under state law to expropriate the property of hundreds of Louisianans along the 162-mile pipeline route.
“We will not allow Bayou Bridge to quietly seize hundreds of people’s land for private profit with no public oversight,” said Anne Rolfes, Director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “The entire process has taken place behind closed doors, leaving in the dark the local people who bear the risks this dangerous pipeline poses to our health, natural environment, and even our very livelihoods.”
The lawsuit follows an initial request the groups submitted to the company, which was formed as a joint venture between Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Phillips 66, on December 6, 2017. Lawyers for Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC responded that they do not believe that the company is subject to public records laws.
The filing also comes in the wake of news of accidents and construction violations involved in other pipelines affiliated with ETP including the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has seen five spills in its first six months of operation; the Mariner East 2 Pipeline in Pennsylvania, where construction was suspended for failure to comply with building requirements; and the Rover Pipeline in Ohio where construction was suspended after emails revealed that the company had purposefully demolished a historic home “to avoid additional costs and prolonged regulatory proceedings.” After filing the lawsuit this morning, the groups held a rally outside of the state courthouse in Baton Rouge.
“Eminent domain is an extraordinary and controversial power, and those most often burdened frequently lack the financial means and political clout to protect their rights in the process,” said CCR Senior Staff Attorney Pamela Spees, who grew up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, one of the communities that would be affected by the pipeline. “This authority is all the more dangerous and troubling when it is placed in the hands of a powerful corporation that claims it should not be subjected to the same transparency requirements as state agencies exercising that authority.”
The lawsuit is one of several legal actions that groups opposed to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline have taken in the past few months, including seeking public records from the Office of the Governor of Louisiana and the Departments of Environmental Quality and National Resources, all in aid of ensuring that Louisianans can transparently evaluate the pipeline companies’ operations and protect the interests of people and the environment.
The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization using grassroots action to create an informed, healthy society that hastens the transition from fossil fuels.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.