It is not over until is over!

Following a very difficult trial wherein ABK worked with Bill Quigley from Loyola University New Orleans and Pamela Spees of the Center for Constitutional Rights in representing three courageous landowners who took a stand against a company who had trespassed and constructed a pipeline on their property and sought after-the-fact permission from a Louisiana court for their conduct, there has been an outpouring of frustration, anger and disbelief from the public. From your team at ABK, we recognize these legitimate and voiced opinions. However, from our perspective, this case is not a loss and is far from over. The very fact that you all have shared your opinions and followed the stories is in one sense a victory. Public awareness around these issues has been seemingly nonexistent before this case. Any of our victories are nothing without public engagement, and it is all of us (the public) that holds the power to make real change. To that end, we encourage you to continue to stay informed, educated, and active. Please don’t forget that this is a marathon, not a race, and that each step in the direction of truth, educating our public, advocacy and engagement, is positive and worth acknowledging.

In Louisiana, we have witnessed a serious disconnect between compliance with and enforcement of the law that has been ongoing for many years. So much is already lost because of it! We are paying the consequences and our kids will pay a bigger price. It is a topic that is at the top of our list of concerns as we see daily the effects that relaxed or failed enforcement and compliance has on our Basin, our commercial fishing and ecotourism jobs, our ecosystems, our ability to contain flood waters and protect surrounding communities, and our Coast.

This case presents no exception. If you find yourself in disbelief with the outcome of this matter, or others, you are not alone. However, there are active steps you can take to help change the state of affairs Louisiana.

First, stay educated and informed, change will never happen if people don’t know the truth. Please help to educate others with respect. Share our postings.

Second, act. Follow ABK as we continue this fight and learn how you can engage. Become a member, donate and consider volunteering. Our work would not be possible without your support.

Finally, we want to reiterate that we empathize and feel just as you all do the sense of great injustice in many of our battles, this matter being no exception. However, it is how we conduct ourselves in the face of these perceived setbacks that matters. We will continue to fight for justice, for the protection of our communities and our natural resources, our Basin and our Coast.

This case is far from over. We hope you will continue to fight alongside us. Sharing ideas with respect will go a long way in our goal to educate others, helping to create a united front, that we so desperately need, for change in Louisiana.

Thank You for all of your support and encouragement – The ABK Team

Trial Concluded: Judge Rules Pipeline Company Trespassed But Allows Taking of Private Property

December 6, 2018, St. Martinville, LA – Today, a Louisiana judge found that the Bayou Bridge Pipeline Company (BBP) trespassed on privately owned land when it constructed its oil pipeline in the sensitive Atchafalaya Basin, but allowed the company to exercise eminent domain over the property for its use. Landowners with property interests that span 38 acres in the basin, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, challenged the land grab and damage to the property resulting from the construction of the pipeline without their permission. Following three days of trial that concluded last Thursday, Judge Keith Comeaux awarded each of the landowners $150 in total for the expropriation and trespass. The landowners’ attorneys say they will appeal court’s ruling.

“This case was always about holding a billion-dollar corporation legally accountable for its violations of the Louisiana and U.S. Constitutions and the damage it is doing to the Atachafalaya Basin,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Pamela Spees. “They made a calculated business decision that it was cheaper to violate the law than to follow it. While the court did find the company trespassed on our clients’ land, the damages award validates their business decision.”

“This case was never about the money, but clearly the judge chose not to send BBP a message by adhering to their ridiculously low appraisal of the land,” said Peter Aaslestad. “The value of the land goes far beyond what you could get if you ground it up for mulch. The court missed the very real value of the property as it is and the protection it provides to the public good. Their experts only spoke about their private gain, but the basin as a whole plays a larger and much more important role for the people and the state of Louisiana. I’m glad the judge ruled in our favor on the trespass, but we are not done fighting.”

“As landowners and people with deep roots in Louisiana, we feel violated that the court didn’t take into account this wasn’t just a trespass—BBP went ahead and damaged the land and laid the pipeline knowing they didn’t have permission and not taking into consideration how that pipeline is going to affect the Atchafalaya Basin in the future,” said Theda Wright.

Attorneys say BBP trespassed onto the land and began constructing the pipeline—including clearing trees and trenching—long before beginning a legal process to obtain the land, and that the company continued construction while permits were under challenge. In addition to defending against BBP’s eminent domain lawsuit, the landowners countersued BBP for trespass and illegal construction. They argued that far from serving a public and necessary purpose that would allow BBP to exercise eminent domain, the pipeline is contrary to the public interest. Attorneys say the judge’s award to compensate the landowners $150 vastly undervalues the land.

Said Atchafalaya Basinkeeper Attorney Misha Mitchell, “Although we are disappointed the court did not find that the crisis facing Louisiana's coast and the Atchafalaya Basin warranted additional consideration in its determination of the public and necessary purpose of the project, the fact that the court found BBP unlawfully trespassed on the property at issue is substantial. For any individual to attempt to hold a huge company like BBP accountable under the law is no small feat—these landowners should be commended for their courage in confronting the illegal acts of a substantial opponent and standing for what is just.”

The Atchafalaya Basin is the country’s largest river swamp and contains old growth trees and many species listed as endangered.

“Pipelines contribute to increased flooding, coastal erosion, and climate change, and BBP’s extensive spill and leak record threatens a true environmental disaster. It is downright dangerous to allow corporations to take private land for environmentally destructive purposes,” said Bill Quigley of Loyola University Law School. “We want the courts to overturn the expropriation and take the pipeline out of the ground.”

For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, The Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.

Contact:

Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, 212-614-6449, jnessel@ccrjustice.org

Anne Rolfes, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, 504-452-4909, anne@labucketbrigade.org

19th Judicial District Court Ruling, July 31, 2018

On July 31,2018, the 19th judicial district court ruled in favor of the petitioners, including ABK, LEAN, Hazel Cavalier and the Concerned Citizens of Belle River, and against the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources for its re-issuance of the permit granted to F.A.S. Environmental Services, Inc. to build a new commercial oil and gas exploration and production waste transfer station in the Basin. The court’s final judgment confirms that the agency failed to meet its own regulatory requirements and public trust duties by disregarding the environmental, social and economic impacts. Thanks to the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic’s outstanding representation in this suit! Click here to read the court's July 31, 2018 Ruling.

A Response From ABK And LCPA On Actions In The Basin, July 2018

ABK & LCPA Response – Protests in the Basin July 16, 2018

Public Statement:

Over the past two weeks, activists opposing the Bayou Bridge pipeline project have staged actions on construction sites near Bayou Pigeon, on the east side of the Atchafalaya Basin. It is our intent with this statement to have it be known that neither Atchafalaya Basinkeeper nor Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West were notified in advance of these actions, nor were we complicit in the execution of these actions. We neither engage in these types of actions nor do we support such without full support from the local community.

Since this project was publicly noticed for permit in 2016, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and LCPA- West have expressed our concerns to our state and federal regulatory agencies and the public due to the perpetual trend of lack of enforcement by regulators and failure of permitted industry to comply with permits in the Basin. Basinkeeper and LCPA-West work to protect and restore the Atchafalaya Basin for future generations. We are not inherently opposed to industry. Rather, we work with all players (agencies, industry, communities and partner advocacy organizations) to restore degraded areas and ensure proposed projects do not adversely impact our wetlands through enforcement and compliance. We work with and in support of the communities in the Basin, including the crawfishing community, recreational users, families and supporters. We work with a variety of partners to educate, monitor and advocate on behalf of the health and sustainability of the Basin for all to enjoy.

Judge Tells Why She Stopped Pipeline Through Atchafalaya Swamp

BATON ROUGE (CN) — The federal judge who granted environmentalists’ injunction to stop a pipeline from crossing the Atchafalaya Basin concluded that public interest in wetlands outweighs a company’s potential financial setbacks.

In a 60-page ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick states why she suspended construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline through the Atchafalaya Basin on Feb. 23, until the case can be tried on its merits.

Dick said the pipeline threatens the health and longevity of the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest river swamp in North America. She agreed with environmentalists who filed the lawsuit that the centuries-old cypress and tupelo trees in the path of the pipeline are irreplaceable...


Court Order Pausing Bayou Bridge Pipeline Only Applies To Path Through Cypress Swamp

A federal judge’s recent order stopping construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline — though only in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin — has successfully prevented further sections of the National Heritage Area from being destroyed, for now.

On February 27, the same day U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick explained her previous week’s ruling to halt work on the pipeline, Dean Wilson, executive director of the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, surveyed the oil pipeline's route in the basin. He was relieved to find cypress trees recently identified as “legacy trees” —  those which were alive before 1803 — still standing.

I spoke to Wilson after he toured the pipeline route. He told me he was relieved to discover much of the route through the basin’s east side still intact. The damage done on the west side was heartbreaking, but at least the pipeline has yet to be put in the ground, he said.

Drone video shot by Phin Percy, an independent camera operator, shows the pipeline route on the west side of the basin, where a swath of trees up to 75 feet deep has already been pulverized...


Judge Denies Bayou Bridge Request To Continue Construction In Basin

A federal judge has denied Bayou Bridge Pipeline's request to continue construction in the Atchafalaya Basin.

Judge Shelly K. Dick, of the U.S. Middle District of Louisiana, ordered on Friday that the company must stop work in the Basin while a lawsuit pays out over their permit to build there. The order granted an injunction sought by environmental groups who sued to stop the project, and Bayou Bridge sought a stay of that ruling.

Dick denied that motion on Monday.

Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association West, Waterkeeper Alliance and Sierra Club. They seek the revocation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for Basin construction...


Corps Was "Arbitrary And Capricious" In Granting Bayou Bridge Pipeline Permit: Federal Judge

The Army Corps of Engineers was "arbitrary and capricious" in some of its decisions granting construction permits for the controversial Bayou Bridge Pipeline, a federal judge indicating in a ruling halting the pipeline's construction until the issue can be heard in court.

In a written opinion issued late Tuesday (Feb. 27), U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick charged that the Army Corps of Engineers was "arbitrary and capricious" in concluding that a more detailed analysis was not needed before determining that the project's environmental effects could be legally offset by the company buying credits equivalent to more than 2,000 acres of damaged wetlands at mitigation banks located in different ecological areas miles from the pipeline route.

She also agreed with environmental groups that construction of the pipeline posed a threat of irreparable harm to both ancient trees within the Atchafalaya basin and to its hydrology, the flow of water through the basin...


Federal Judge: Work On Bayou Bridge Pipeline Stopped In Atchafalaya Basin, Can Continue Elsewhere

A federal court order temporarily blocking construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline is limited to the Atchafalaya Basin, and work can continue elsewhere along the length of the 163-mile crude oil line, a judge ordered this week.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick clarified her Friday order stopping work with a 60-page ruling released Tuesday night, finding that environmental groups made enough of a case so far to suggest the pipeline poses permanent and irreparable risks to the basin's hydrology and environment, including to 1,000-year-old cypress in the path of the line.

"The Court finds the temporary delay in reaping economic benefits does not outweigh the permanent harm to the environment that has been established as a result of the pipeline construction," Dick wrote...

Older Posts