Third Circuit says Bayou Bridge Pipeline trampled on landowners’ rights

Three residents who fought the BBP live on the environmentally fragile Atchafalaya Basin.
Three residents who fought the BBP live on the environmentally fragile Atchafalaya Basin.(La. Bucket Brigade)
Updated: Jul. 20, 2020 at 7:21 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -A precedent-setting ruling has come from the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal, dealing with big companies that sometimes don’t follow the rules.  The case has to do with the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

 There’s a saying, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” That may be true for some things, but the Third Circuit says it’s not okay when it’s a big company doing the same to a small landowner.

In the case of the BBP, many landowners felt they were bullied by the big company trying to get the land they needed to run the pipeline. Most did not fight the company, but three, whose property is in the Atchafalaya Basin did after BBP went ahead with construction before getting the legal authorization.

In a strongly worded ruling, the panel says BBP can’t do that. Pam Spees is an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. She represents the landowners and says it’s a precedent setting ruling.

“The court actually said that this company trampled on the rights of these landowners, they used that word. And that it eviscerated the protections in the law there for landowners,” said Spees.

“This company was very clear and one of its representatives said at trial that time is money and so they made a very calculated decision that it would be cheaper to violate the law than it was to follow it,” she said.

La Koshia Roberts, whose family went through a similar experience with their property in Lacassine, is elated about the ruling.

“My dad was one of those who sued because he refused to sign. He refused to be treated unfairly. And as an owner, part owner of that property, he did not have to give up his property.”

Roberts and Spees say part of the problem is that Louisiana law allows certain big companies the right of eminent domain and to expropriate property. They agree that should change.

“It is nonsensical for a for profit corporation to be given a governmental function such as expropriation or eminent domain by the legislature,” said Roberts.

“We’d like to see the legislature do the right thing and take that power away from these companies,” she said.

The court awarded the three residents attorney’s fees and $10,000 each for violation of their rights to due process of law

The 162-mile oil pipeline from Lake Charles to St. James has been up and running since March of 2019.

We contacted attorneys for the BBP but have not received a return phone call. No word yet on whether the company will appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Click here to read the 44 page ruling.

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