Given Louisiana's legacy of environmental abuses, residents have a right to be skeptical when industry proposes new projects in ecologically sensitive areas.
But after a thorough official review of the planned Bayou Bridge pipeline project, there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason why the pipeline shouldn’t move forward.
Even so, that hasn't prevented opponents of fossil-fuel development from hiring lawyers to throw up new — or old — objections in federal court.
Environmental groups sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a bid to block construction of the project. It's a long pipeline, 162 miles from industrial hubs in Calcasieu Parish in the west and St. James Parish in the east.
That route takes it through the Atchafalaya Basin, truly an environmentally sensitive region that our people want to protect. But is the new pipeline — one more of many, and this one built to modern standards of safety and reliability — going to threaten the basin?
We question the assumption that regulators, including the state and federal governments, acted somehow in bad faith in reviewing the pipeline. In some quarters, of course, any fossil-fuel project is inherently dangerous and evil, but Louisiana and the energy industry have learned over decades how to make pipelines safer.
The federal lawsuit claims the Corps violated the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws when it approved a permit for the Bayou Bridge Pipeline project in December.
The Corps said it completed an environmental assessment for the project before issuing the permit on Dec. 14. The lawsuit claims that review was "plainly inadequate" and asks the court to block the project's permit.
Attorneys from Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, Gulf Restoration Network, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and the Louisiana Crawfish Producers Association-West.
The Corps is the latest target of criticism, but we hope that the courts will demand facts and not assertions of error by the agencies that have been reviewing this project since 2015.
Pipelines are by far the safest way to transport oil and gas compared to roads and rails. They are rarely controversial in Louisiana, where we have a century of experience with them. But they are flashpoints in other areas of the country, where shale oil development has generated a need for new pipelines to move energy produced in the continental states.
The Bayou Bridge is a long way from the Dakota Access pipeline that provoked violent clashes between protesters and police in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017. But the same Dallas-based company is building it.
On the merits, would moving oil or gas by truck be safer than a pipeline? We think the answer is obvious.
The courts should not indulge in guilt-by-association but quickly resolve this latest delay. The pipeline will, eventually, provide a significant number of construction jobs and a competitive advantage for Louisiana's petrochemical manufacturing complex.