The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has taken actions that authorize the Bayou Bridge pipeline’s construction and operation in violation of federal statutes.
In issuing these authorizations, the Corps declared that the pipeline would not have a significant impact on the environment, and did not require a FULL environmental impact statement, as mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act for federally permitted projects with significant environmental impacts.
Governing regulations define what “range of actions, alternatives, and impacts [must] be considered in an environmental impact statement. This is in part what is known as the “scope” of the environmental impact statement, which must consider direct and indirect effects. The direct effects of an action are those effects “which are caused by the action and occur at the same time and place.” The indirect effects of an action are those effects “which are caused by the action and are later in time or farther removed in distance, but are still reasonably foreseeable.”
The Corps must also analyze and address the cumulative impacts of a proposed project. Cumulative impacts are the result of any past, present, or future actions that are reasonably certain to occur. Such effects “can result from individually minor but collectively significant actions taking place over a period of time.”
Leaving spoil banks in place after completion of pipeline construction is a violation of permits issued by the Corps. However, the Corps has failed to enforce such permits; allowing pipeline companies to leave these spoil banks in place for years or decades, to the considerable detriment of the Basin’s ecology. Given budget cuts to all agencies, I’ll speculate there isn’t funding to enforce the law. Permit cost needs to be high enough to pay for verification of compliance. And failure to comply should carry a penalty big enough so it’s cheaper to comply than not.
The Corps approval of the Pipeline, based on a plainly inadequate environmental review and consideration of mandatory factors under the law, injures the health, recreational, economic, professional, scientific, and aesthetic interests of the citizens of Louisiana. Before any more pipelines are built in the Basin, the Corps needs to enforce existing permits and bring illegal rights of way back into compliance.
An oil spill in the dense swamp, particularly during high water periods when vast areas of the Basin are underwater, would be an ecological catastrophe. Clean up of an oil spill in the Basin would be extraordinarily difficult, expensive, and would have numerous environmental ramifications of its own.
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