Bayou Bridge construction equipment has been vandalized in Assumption Parish according to the sheriff's office, and on Thursday the pipeline company offered a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest.
Vandals cut hydraulic hoses and electrical lines, broke windows and spray painted messages on backhoes and bulldozers, though the pipeline itself did not appear to be damaged, said sheriff's spokesman Lonny Cavalier.
The contractor has estimate damage of at least $50,000 but possibly much more, Cavalier said.
Bayou Bridge is designed to carry crude oil between Lake Charles and St. James. Supporters say it will be a safe, necessary and lucrative way to bolster Louisiana's energy economy, while opponents have argued that it has already destroyed wetlands and threatens to leak oil and endanger drinking water once complete.
A federal judge previously halted work in the Atchafalaya Basin, though an appeals panel overturned the decision.
A divided federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline can go forward, overturning a lower court's …
The recent incident happened sometime over the weekend off La. 998 near Belle Rose, Cavalier said.
He said deputies are still investigating, though the company has blamed environmental extremists based on some of the spray painting. Company officials declined to say what was spray painted on the construction equipment.
"We understand there will always be varying opinions about critical infrastructure projects like the Bayou Bridge Pipeline and we respect the rights of all to peacefully protest, however destruction of equipment is not peaceful," the company wrote in a statement on its social media accounts.
Local environmental groups have fought Bayou Bridge in court and once held a demonstration not far from the vandalism site. During the earlier protest, three pipeline opponents sat on a portion of pipeline, briefly blocking work but causing no damage.
Work temporarily stopped on the Bayou Bridge pipeline near Belle Rose Monday after a handful of environmental protesters stood in the way of t…
Anne Rolfes, founder of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and one of the familiar faces at previous demonstrations said vandalism is not a tactic her coalition employs.
"I don't know who would've done that. We don't condone that type of damage," she said.
At the same time, "I'm not surprised," Rolfes added.
Both sides have accused the other of hypocrisy.
Pipeline builders argued that damage to equipment or infrastructure can actually harm the environment, though they did not delve into whether that was at issue in the recent case.
The company, in its statement, said the recent vandalism cause "significant damage and potentially harmful environmental impacts. ... What we find most concerning is the environmental damage caused by those who say they are 'protecting the environment."
Rolfes fired back that if Energy Transfer Partners, which owns Bayou Bridge, cares so much about the environment it should bring down the number of spills the company reports.
As Assumption deputies investigate the case, Bayou Bridge has offered a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Tipsters can call in reports at (855) 430-4491.