Judge: Pipe­line work can go for­ward

The Sun Herald - - Business - BY KEVIN MCGILL

NEW OR­LEANS

A Louisiana judge ruled Thurs­day that a com­pany build­ing an oil pipe­line through south Louisiana tres­passed on the land of three peo­ple op­posed to the pro­ject, but he al­lowed the work to con­tinue while award­ing the three only $150 apiece in com­pen­sa­tion and dam­ages.

Judge Keith Comeaux’s rul­ing Thurs­day said the land was seized for a le­git­i­mate pub­lic pur­pose, and that the land in dis­pute was of lit­tle value to its out-of-state owners. His rul­ing dis­ap­pointed op­po­nents of the nearly com­plete Bayou Bridge Pipe­line, who said they would ap­peal.

Op­po­nents had hoped the St. Mart­inville-based judge would or­der the pipe­line re­moved from the rel­a­tively small amount of land in­volved, a small frac­tion of a 38-acre tract. Bar­ring that, they had hoped for a ma­jor dam­age award to dis­cour­age other cor­po­ra­tions from il­le­gally tak­ing land.

En­ergy Trans­fer Partners, the pro­ject owner, has said the 162-mile pipe­line is ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional by year’s end.

“While the court did find the com­pany tres­passed on our clients’ land, the dam­ages award val­i­dates their busi­ness de­ci­sion,” said Pamela Spees, an at­tor­ney for the Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tional Rights, which worked with Loy­ola Univer­sity law pro­fes­sor Bill Quigley and the Louisiana Bucket Bri­gade on the is­sue.

ETP is­sued a brief state­ment, not­ing that con­struc­tion is nearly com­plete. “We are pleased with the rul­ing from Judge Comeaux and look for­ward to bring­ing the pipe­line into ser­vice be­fore the end of the year,” the emailed state­ment said.

At the heart of the le­gal is­sues was the prac­tice of ex­pro­pri­a­tion – gov­ern­ment al­low­ing a pri­vate en­tity to take land, with fair com­pen­sa­tion to the owners, for a le­git­i­mate pub­lic pur­pose, in this case trans­fer­ring oil to re­finer­ies along the Mis­sis­sippi River. Comeaux al­lowed the ex­pro­pri­a­tion to pro­ceed.

Comeaux agreed that the pro­ject owners tres­passed by fail­ing to get per­mis­sion to work and by fail­ing to start ex­pro­pri­a­tion pro­ceed­ings be­fore build­ing. How­ever, he sided with En­ergy Trans­fer Partners in not­ing that the three had never been on the land prior to the ex­pro­pri­a­tion.

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