Attorneys representing St. Martin Parish landowners whose property was taken by a pipeline company argued before the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal Wednesday.
The landowners are urging the appellate court to reverse a trial court’s decision allowing expropriation of their land.
They say Bayou Bridge Pipeline Company came onto their land, cut down trees and laid down a pipeline in their land in the Atchafalaya Basin without their knowledge.
“This company made a business decision in early 2018 to just go ahead and go onto the property and begin clearing trees and build its pipeline long before it ever filed in court to do it legally,” Pam Spees, the landowners’ attorney, said.
Katherine Aaslestad and her brother own the land Bayou Bridge Pipeline laid the oil pipeline in.
“We did not want this land to be ravaged,” Aaslestad said.
Aaslestad said Bayou Bridge Pipeline made her family two offers for their land. Her family declined both, and the company sued them.
Aaslestad’s brother put out an injunction, and that’s when they found out the damage had already been done. Bayou Bridge Pipeline had already buried and began using the oil pipelines in their land in the Atchafalaya.
“It’s really important to me that the wetlands are preserved. The fact that the pipeline had been laid in this very precious, crucially important place for the state of Louisiana and for the U.S. is already outrageous to me,” Aaslestad said. “I’m surprised that there aren’t regulations that would have prevented this in the first place.”
The trial court said the company did illegally trespass onto privately-owned land, however, the trial court allowed the company to take the land under the power of eminent domain.
Attorney Pam Spees and others are now challenging the constitutionality of the power of eminent domain to private oil pipeline companies.
They are arguing that the trial court’s ruling allowing the expropriation of the land should be reversed.
The landowners are now waiting on the ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.
If the Third Circuit Court of Appeal rules in favor of the pipeline company, the landowners say they will appeal the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court.