Sept. 14–Bayou Bridge may take a bit longer to finish after all.
The 163-mile pipeline is designed to carry crude oil from Lake Charles to St. James and has induced impassioned challenges from conservationists on the ground and in court, while industry authorities have vigorously defended Bayou Bridge as a safe way to bolster Louisiana’s energy economy.
Builders recently told The Advocate the controversial pipeline will be ready in October. However, the target completion date has now been widened by two months to include anytime in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a Thursday email from Alexis Daniel, spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners, the majority shareholder in Bayou Bridge.
Environmental groups took the news to mean their tactics are working. The company says the timeline shift has more to do with weather.
“(The timeline) was updated in early spring when we were still looking at water levels and weather conditions in the (Atchafalaya) Basin. These are always anticipated estimations as there are many factors that play into constructing a project like this,” Daniel wrote.
ETP has been telling investors to expect a fourth quarter completion since at least Aug. 9, according to company records filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The message accidentally didn’t make it to the company’s communication team, Daniel said.
The timeline of Bayou Bridge has been important this week due to a legal battle in St. Martin Parish. Landowners have accused Bayou Bridge construction crews of trespassing on their land without proper legal authority. The company has filed an eminent domain suit to expropriate the required land, but it won’t be heard until Nov. 27.
Bayou Bridge critic Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, said Thursday it sounded like the pipeline company had incriminated itself by suggesting the pipeline would be ready before a judge decides whether they have legal authority to enter the right of way in dispute. Environmental groups have flown over the Bayou Bridge route and contended the company has already damaged property where it had no right to tread.
Another critic, Cherri Foytlin, said she has “no doubt” that challenges from landowners and environmental groups are the real reason the completion date may be pushed back. “Arrogant” pipeline builders didn’t count on locals to protect their property rights in the Bayou Bridge business plan, said Foytlin, a leader of the L’eau Est La Vie camp and one of the people arrested for demonstrating in recent weeks.
“We said we’d fight every inch of this pipeline going into the ground, and we’re going to keep doing that,” she added.
Building a pipeline takes time because a company has to clear the right of way, lay pipe, weld, coat and trench the line, fill in the trenches and perform tests before a new route can come online, according to the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. Though the organization declined to comment on any specific endeavor, it emphasized that oil and gas companies are focused on safe construction.
“With all these factors, it’s important to take the time necessary to make sure it’s done right,” LMOGA attorney Tyler Gray wrote in an email to The Advocate.
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