A Federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction ordering Energy Transfer Partners to stop work on the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in Louisiana.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick said she issued the ruling to “prevent further irreparable harm to Atchafalaya Basin,” and will release her reasoning at a later date.
It’s not clear what reasons she’ll give, but this is a victory for environmental groups who have been fighting the project.
ETP, as the company is known, built the Dakota Access Pipeline that sparked protests in 2016 and 2017. It had been halted by the Obama administration only to be given the go ahead by President Trump soon after he took office last year.
Friday’s ruling shows that Louisiana, a state that earns billions off the oil and gas industry and is crisscrossed by pipelines, is perhaps questioning their benefit. Many studies show pipelines cause major environmental damage through leaks and ruptures.
The Atchafalaya Basin is the largest swamp in North America. It contains unique cypress-tupelo forest wetlands and is an important habitat for migratory and other birds. For generations, fishermen have harvested wild crawfish from the Basin.
If completed, the 163-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline would run from Lake Charles to St. James Louisiana, cutting through 11 Louisiana parishes and crossing 700 bodies of water. It is part of a larger project slated to connect the controversial Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota to refineries in St. James Parish and nearby export terminals.
Last month, the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West, the Gulf Restoration Network, the Waterkeeper Alliance, the Sierra Club and it’s Delta Chapter requested work on the pipeline be stopped until the resolution of a lawsuit filed in January.
In the suit, the groups allege that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it issued a permit for the pipeline, which if completed could carry nearly a million barrels of crude oil a day across the basin.
The groups contend that the Corps violated the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing the permit without an environmental impact statement.
“This is a huge victory for the Basin,” said Atchafalaya Basinkeeper Dean Wilson, who added that for decades pipelines have devastated the swamp and the Corp should have to enforce existing permits before new permits are issued.
“The court’s ruling recognizes the serious threat this pipeline poses to the Atchafalaya Basin, one of our country’s ecological and cultural crown jewels,” said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who is representing the plaintiffs.
Earlier this month, the plaintiffs testified that ancient cypress and tupelo trees – which provide habitat for migratory birds, bears, bats and other wildlife – are being destroyed by pipeline construction.
It’s unclear what the injunction means for the project as a whole. Although the plaintiffs only requested work be stopped in the Atchafalaya Basin, in court documents they noted that Federal law prohibits further construction that would eliminate the possibility of rerouting the pipeline around the massive Basin.
Earlier this month, ETP’s subsidiary, Sunoco Inc. was fined a record $12.6 million by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for violations incurred during the construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline and last year ETP was fined millions for violations during construction of the Rover Pipeline.
“ETP has a horrible track record that keeps getting worse every day,” said Donna Lisenby, Clean and Safe Energy Campaign Manager for the Waterkeeper Alliance, who added that she’s relieved ETP has been temporarily stopped from damaging Louisiana’s water, land and wildlife.
Alexis Daniel, spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners, which intervened in the case, said the company would have no further comment until the judge issues her reasoning for the order.