Judge Rules Laws Do Not Apply to Private For-Profit Corporations
January 25, 2018, Baton Rouge, LA – Today, Louisiana groups argued before a state court that Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC’s (BBP) land grabs along the proposed pipeline route are subject to public records laws. The groups—including Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and 350 New Orleans—represented by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, first filed the lawsuit on January 16. BBP, a Delaware corporation that was behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, has taken or expropriated over 400 pieces of private property in Louisiana, asserting that it has legal authority to exercise eminent domain under state law as a “common carrier” because its proposed pipeline is “in the public interest”. The groups argue that therefore the company should be subjected to the same transparency requirements as state agencies exercising the same state authority. The judge ruled from the bench that the public records laws do not apply to private for-profit corporations. The groups announced that they look forward to appealing and wanted to know what the corporation has to hide.
After the hearing, the advocates reported back on Facebook Live via the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.
“Bayou Bridge will not escape public scrutiny for its rogue efforts to strip hundreds of Louisiana families of their land for their own private profit,” said Anne Rolfes, Director of Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “It’s a new day in Louisiana. Communities across this proposed pipeline route have resisted and will continue to resist, and we will not back down from defending our land from this destructive pipeline.”
The lawsuit follows a December 6 request the groups submitted to the company, which is a joint venture between Energy Transfer Partners Sunoco Logistics (a separate ETP-owned corporation), and Phillips 66. Lawyers for BBP responded that they do not believe the company is subject to public records laws.
Construction on the pipeline began this week. The lawsuit and hearing come in the wake of news of accidents and construction violations on 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 the company was refused a blanket construction authorization after emails revealed that the company had purposefully demolished a historic home “to avoid additional costs and prolonged regulatory proceedings.” Last week the company spilled 150,000 gallons of drilling fluid into wetlands in Ohio, a scenario that Bayou Bridge opponents fear will be repeated in Louisiana.
“The company wants to have it both ways – exercising the power delegated by the state to expropriate people’s property but without the transparency that should come with it,” 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. “In light of Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC’s use of eminent domain, we urged the court to order them to release these records to the public to shed light on how this process has played out for the communities most affected by it. Now we look forward to appealing the judge’s decision. What does the corporation have to hide?”
The lawsuit is one of several legal actions that groups opposed to the Bayou Bridge Pipeline have taken in the past few months, aiming to ensure that Louisianans can transparently evaluate the pipeline companies’ operations, and those of its affiliated security company TigerSwan, to protect the interests of Louisianans and the environment.
To stream video of the press conference following the hearing, visit Louisiana Bucket Brigade’s Facebook page here.
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.