Louisiana groups vow pipeline fight

2nd permit hearing nears for project

BATON ROUGE -- Louisiana environmental groups are gearing up for round two in a battle against a proposed 163-mile oil pipeline.

A Jan. 12 public hearing for a required U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit drew more than 400 supporters and opponents. Many of the opponents gathered before the hearing and decried a project that they fear will foul the state's wetlands and water. The pipeline would stretch across south Louisiana from Lake Charles through the Atchafalaya Basin and east to St. James.

A second hearing is set Feb. 8 for a permit needed from the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. That permit is for the roughly 16 miles that will pass close enough to the coast to receive special attention under the state's Coastal Zone program.

The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported that the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline project is being jointly pursued by subsidiaries of Phillips 66, Sunoco Logistics and Energy Transfer Partners, all three of which have a stake in the Dakota Access pipeline.

"I expect we will have a bigger turnout, because people are fired up," said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade environmental group, later adding, "This opposition is really unprecedented."

The proposed pipeline would cross 11 parishes. It would link Louisiana refineries to a major oil-and-gas hub in Texas that connects to larger pipelines throughout North America, including the Dakota Access pipeline between North Dakota and Illinois, which has been the subject of ongoing protests.

Supporters argue that the $750 million project would boost the Louisiana economy and offer a safer alternative to moving crude oil with trucks, trains and barges.

The subject of next month's hearing is the Natural Resources Department permit needed for portions of the pipeline that would pass through state-designated Coastal Zones in St. James and Assumption parishes, said department spokesman Patrick Courreges.

He said the department will assess the potential impact the project might have on coastal wetlands.

"The whole goal of the program is no net loss," Courreges said.

The Natural Resources Department began reviewing the permit early last year and initially closed the public comment period in May, but Courreges said the agency decided to hold a public hearing based on the increasing amount of attention the project has received in recent months.

"When this project was originally being looked at, there wasn't that much interest," he said.

There is no firm timeline for a decision on either the Corps permit or the Natural Resources Department permit.

Rolfes said the pipeline company can expect continued protests to block the project, even if it receives the required approvals from regulators, who she said generally do "big oil's bidding."

"They will not lay this pipeline," she said.

A Section on 01/23/2017