VACHERIE — A split St. James Parish Council cleared the way Wednesday night for the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline to move through the parish amid opposition from west bank residents over continued industrial development and some calls for buyouts if the pipeline proceeds.
The 162-mile crude oil line proposed from Lake Charles to west St. James has encountered opposition from environmental groups worried about the line’s impact on the Atchafalaya Basin farther west. In St. James Parish, the pipeline’s broader environmental and safety concerns have come in addition to growing worries about existing and new industries encroaching on neighborhoods in rural sections of the parish.
The $670 million pipeline would create 2,500 temporary construction jobs and 12 permanent jobs and could carry 480,000 barrels of oil per day east from Lake Charles to the edge of the Mississippi River.
Construction of a proposed 162-mile oil pipeline across south Louisiana will likely generate…
On Wednesday, the residents and environmental activists who spoke to the council stressed what they see as the poor environmental track record of Energy Transfer Partners, the company that wants to build the pipeline, and the safety as well as the health and environmental impacts they believe the pipeline would pose. While a company official defended the safety record, he also stressed the manufacturing standards and continued monitoring the future pipeline would receive if built.
Can't see video below? Click here.
Even with the Parish Council’s blessing on a narrow 4-3 vote, Energy Transfer Partners still needs permits from the state Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and faces a lawsuit over another permit that has already been granted.
But Alexis Daniel, an Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman, said after the vote that the company expects to start construction on the pipeline this quarter. Daniel, who said the company’s time estimates factored in any potential delays from the lawsuit, said the company expects the pipeline to be in service by the first quarter of 2018.
Jody Meche, whose family has fished the Atchafalaya Basin for three generations, has no phil…
On Wednesday the council was considering an appeal of the parish Planning Commission's decision May 31 to grant a land use approval needed for the pipeline to pass through west St. James and stop at the rear of two tank farms along the Mississippi, the Plains Marketing and NuStar facilities.
After public discussion and presentation from Energy Transfer Partners, Parish Councilman Clyde Cooper, who appealed the commission decision, proposed overturning that decision but got only two other votes, Councilmen Ken Brass and Ralph Patin. Councilmen Jason Amato, Ryan Louque, Eddie Kraemer and Alvin “Shark” St. Pierre voted no, with St. Pierre, the council chairman, casting the final, tie-breaking vote.
Cooper’s motion failed 3-4.
Then, Louque proposed upholding the Planning Commission, and the vote tally flip-flopped, 4-3, with Cooper, Brass and Patin against and Amato, Kraemer and St. Pierre in favor with Louque. St. Pierre again cast the final, tie-breaking vote.
In both cases, the vote broke along racial lines, with the seven-member council’s white majority prevailing and black council members on the losing side of each vote.
Can't see video below? Click here.
Before the vote, Cooper said he doesn’t want to see the pipeline approved until a planned evacuation route for the Burton Lane area is finalized and called for area industries, residents and parish officials to start meeting on the area’s problems.
Some residents called into question the safety of the pipeline as well and want it blocked but Nathaniel Braud, 49, of St. James, suggested that if the pipeline were to come, then residents need an option to be bought out.
“If these thing are going to come and they’re going to take place within our community, in the 5th district, on the west bank side, OK, then go ahead with it, but I think that every last one of these people in here should be offered a fair value amount for their property,” Braud said, as applause erupted.
Braud said his 82-year-old mother can't afford to move and might not be able to secure a new loan or other financing at her age to leave.
Daniel said later the pipeline would cross Burton Road about 1.5 miles west of the homes on the street. Daniel said the company offers fair market value for land it needs to buy for its pipelines, but she would not directly address whether the company would consider buyouts.