Baton Rouge — St. James citizens and advocacy groups are suing the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) for violating the Louisiana Constitution when it issued a Coastal Use Permit to Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC and refused to evaluate the negative environmental impact on the majority African American residents of St. James, Louisiana, who are surrounded by crude oil terminal facilities, pipelines and associated industry. The Petitioners, represented by Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, include H.E.L.P. (Humanitarian Enterprise of Loving People) Association, a community based organization in St. James at the terminus of the proposed pipeline, Gulf Restoration Network, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and Bold Louisiana.
LDNR issued the Coastal Use Permit despite thousands of written objections, hundreds of public statements and two petitions for reconsideration. The lawsuit filed on May 31, 2017 focuses on environmental justice concerns at the terminus of the pipeline in St. James Parish - an area also known as "Cancer Alley." St. James has a 97% African American population and is home to many heavy industrial facilities with up to two major pipeline incidents a year.
"You never know what you are going to find when you come home. You don't know what you are going to smell, what you are going to see. We're already so impacted now, how much more will Bayou Bridge release?" says Ms. Genevieve Butler, is a petitioner in the lawsuit and vice-chairman of the local H.E.L.P. organization.
The most urgent problem is the how the pipeline will block evacuation from the Burton Lane Community in St. James. Residents complain that they are trapped without an escape route in the event of an emergency, spill or release. "We do not have an exit route when things happen from the Sunshine Bridge to Moonshine highway. With the new plants and Bayou Bridge coming in, there's more traffic and more accidents, what's going to happen then?" asks Pastor Joseph, Sr., of Mount Triumph Baptist church and petitioner.
Groups continue to press all responsible agencies to conduct a thorough analysis and produce an Environmental Impact Statement to address the litany of concerns that persist over this proposed pipeline. Two permits remain pending, but LDNR has a particular duty to the coast.
"New pipelines damage our coast more than any other development. How can we expect to restore the coast while DNR permits this destruction?" says, Scott Eustis, Coastal Wetland Specialist for Gulf Restoration Network. LDNR's Coastal Use Permit allows for Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC to install the easternmost 17-mile segment of its proposed 162.52-mile-long crude oil pipeline, in the coastal zone.