States Allow For-Profit Pipeline Companies to Seize Private Property

Fossil fuel companies above the law?

States Allow For-Profit Pipeline Companies to Seize Private Property

A Bayou Bridge Pipeline construction site in Louisiana's iconic Atchafalaya Basin, the nation's largest river swamp. Energy Transfer Partners agreed to halt construction of the pipeline on a parcel of private property this week after a conservation group filed a lawsuit on behalf of a landowner.A Bayou Bridge Pipeline construction site in Louisiana’s iconic Atchafalaya Basin, the nation’s largest river swamp. Energy Transfer Partners agreed to halt construction of the pipeline on a parcel of private property this week after a conservation group filed a lawsuit on behalf of a landowner.L’eau Est La Vie Camp

According to Misha Mitchell, an attorney for a conservation group in Louisiana’s ecologically sensitive Atchafalaya Basin, Energy Transfer Partners and other private oil interests broke the law when they began building a section of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline on a parcel of private land in the iconic river swamp without permission from the landowners.

Mitchell filed a lawsuit against the pipeline project on behalf of landowner Peter Aaslestad and his family after construction began on their property in late July, but work continued on the property until Monday, when Energy Transfer Partners struck a deal in a local court with the plaintiffs to temporarily halt construction.

The company must now wait until at least November to finish, when a court will decide whether Energy Transfer Partners has the legal right to “expropriate” the property under state law. Workers have already built much of the pipeline easement on the property after clearing trees and grinding them into mulch. The deal is a setback for the company and a victory for environmentalists, but much of the project is already completed.

Aerial photos show unpermitted pipeline construction on Aaslestad’s property as far back as July 23, but the local police did not show up until the media and environmental activists arrived last month. Unlike Energy Transfer Partners, the activists claimed to have written permission from one of Aaslestad’s co-owners to be on the property, but several were arrested on felony charges and dragged off to jail after resorting to civil disobedience to halt construction.

“Everyone should be concerned that certain people get away with things that others can’t,” said Mitchell. “It’s not an equitable system, and there should be serious spotlight on accountability and compliance with the laws of this state.”

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