Construction of a crude oil pipeline through a bayou in Louisiana’s Cajun country has been suspended by a federal court judge.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick Friday granted environmental groups’ request for a preliminary injunction that temporarily halts pipeline construction in the environmentally fragile Atchafalaya Basin until their lawsuit over the project is resolved.
The judge’s two-page order bars the company building the Bayou Bridge pipeline “from taking any further action on the project” pending a trial on the merits of the case. It wasn’t immediately clear if the order is limited to work in the basin or applies to the entire length of the 162-mile-long pipeline from Lake Charles to St. James Parish.
No matter the scope, Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman said the ruling is a “very significant victory for the people who rely on and care about the Atchafalaya Basin.”
“For too long, the oil industry has treated this place as garbage dump,” he said. “Finally, it is getting the kind of protection that it deserves.”
Dick said her order will “prevent further irreparable harm” from the project. She said she will issue detailed reasons for her ruling “as soon as possible.”
“The judge did not issue any opinion explaining her order. Until such time as that is issued, and we can review, we will have no further comment,” said Alexis Daniel, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, one of the companies building the pipeline.
Dick’s ruling followed an earlier legal setback for the environmental groups. On Jan. 30, the judge had rejected their request for a temporary restraining order that would have stopped construction until a hearing earlier this month.
The groups, including Sierra Club, sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Jan. 11. The lawsuit accuses the Corps of violating the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws when it approved a permit for Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC to build the 24-inch-wide pipeline.
The Corps says it completed two environmental assessments for the project before issuing the permit. The groups, however, said the Corps didn’t adequately consider the project’s oil spill risks.
Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC is a joint venture of Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66. Energy Transfer Partners built the Dakota Access pipeline.
The Bayou Bridge pipeline is the last link in a pipeline network connecting the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota with Louisiana refineries and export terminals. The south Louisiana pipeline is designed to have a maximum capacity of 480,000 barrels, or roughly 20 million gallons, of crude a day.
Pipeline construction in the basin began last month. The basin is the nation’s largest river swamp and includes roughly 880,000 acres of forested wetlands, according to the groups’ lawsuit.