Pipeline Fight

FILE - In this April 27, 2018, file photo, a old logging canal cuts through Bayou Sorrel in the Atchafalaya River Basin in Louisiana. Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC’s building a crude oil pipeline in Louisiana expects to complete the construction project by October if a federal appeals court doesn’t order another halt to the work. In a court filing Wednesday, June 27, 2018, Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC’s attorneys said construction of the entire 163-mile pipeline was nearly 76 percent complete as of Sunday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Almost finished, despite legal challenges from environmental groups, the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline project is a significant economic win for Louisiana and one that we hope is in successful and safe operation for years to come.

The company building the pipeline estimates construction will be complete by October. Then, about 480,000 barrels of crude oil per day could be transferred from the Lake Charles end to refineries along the Mississippi River.

The criticism of the project involved the effectiveness of the environmental remediation, essentially buying and improving land elsewhere in the Atchafalaya Basin to replace the trees cut down for construction.

The environmental groups filing that suit also challenged in state court the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, saying it should have forced the company to jump through more hoops before approving the permits required in coastal zone parishes the pipeline passes through.

With respect for the environmental groups’ positions, we see the thousands of workers’ jobs and long-term economic benefits of the pipeline as justifying its existence.

A U.S. district judge in Baton Rouge initially halted construction in the part of the pipeline crossing the environmentally sensitive Atchafalaya Basin, already crisscrossed by pipelines built in some cases decades ago. But a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the project to go forward, and still is deliberating on the issues raised in the lawsuits.

We believe this pipeline is unfairly attainted because of issues in another part of the country where pipeline construction is not as familiar as it is in Louisiana.

Bayou Bridge Pipeline LLC is a joint venture of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66. Energy Transfer Partners built the Dakota Access pipeline, a project that sparked a string of violent clashes between protesters and police in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017.

Bayou Bridge is the last link in a pipeline network connecting the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota with Louisiana refineries and export terminals. It will make Louisiana-refined products more competitive in national markets and in exports overseas, a vital new component of our state’s economic base.

Those economic benefits are tangible and important, but — as in North Dakota — how should thousands of barrels of oil be transported? In trucks on Louisiana’s crumbling roads? On rail, probably safer, but also imposing vast new burdens on the freight lines.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s view that pipelines are by far the safest way to transport large quantities of petrochemical products remains true, here as well as in North Dakota.

We have long supported the preservation of the Atchafalaya Basin. But so long as Bayou Bridge’s permits were within the law, it is not an abuse that in our view deserves to be trapped in litigation.

In Louisiana, if we are more familiar with pipelines than the folks in the Dakotas, we are also aware of the downsides of energy production and transportation. Regulations to protect the environment are not only vital but may also deserve, as the concerns about remediation projects in the Basin, strengthening over time.

But companies building such big projects undergo a huge amount of scrutiny from government agencies. If they play by the rules, their projects should proceed.