Mobile Baykeeper Executive Director Casi Callaway asked Mobile County commissioners to “stand strong” in challenging a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a proposed oil pipeline.
Callaway questioned the commission on a letter it sent retracting its previous support of a lawsuit between her organization and the Corps over the issuing of a nationwide permit to allow completion of a 45-mile Plains Southcap pipeline between north Mobile and Pascagoula, Miss.
“Please explain to us why you’ve changed your opinion on this issue,” Callaway asked the commission, during a public comment period before its Monday meeting.
The Baykeeper lawsuit, filed in January by the Southern Environmental Law Center, alleges violations of the Clean Water Act and notes the Corps’ failure to follow proper procedure in permitting the pipeline.
Commissioner Connie Hudson said the body was following a legal recommendation from County Attorney Jay Ross when it issued the retraction.
“We recognize they followed legal guidelines,” Hudson said. “Whether we like it or not, that’s a fact.”
Hudson said the legal requirements would have to be changed before anything more could be done.
Plains recently intervened in the lawsuit, after District Court Judge William Steele determined the company could do so in order to protect its investment.
Plains and the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System have reached a settlement that would allow Plains to gain easements on the MAWSS watershed in exchange for preventing Plains from transporting tar sands through the pipeline. Plains will also pay MAWSS nearly $3 million to help protect the watershed that provides drinking water to 250,000 people, among other stipulations.
In other news, Hudson will take over as commission president Tuesday, from Merceria Ludgood, after a 16-month rotation.
“I thank the staff for helping to make this job really easy,” Ludgood said. “We have a great staff.”
In other business, the commission:
• Approved an agreement with Baytown Senior Village to use $800,000 in federal funds for the development of 48 housing units for the elderly.
• Approved a contract with Citronelle High School PTSA in the amount of $12,000 for technology equipment
• Approved the reappointment of Randy Bishop to the Mobile Industrial Development Authority
• Approved contract with Infirmary Occupational Health PC in the amount of $2,500 for their community health fair
• Approved agreement with CoStar Realty Information, Inc. for the period of Jan. 31, 2014 to Jan. 31, 2015 in the amount of $3,677 for insight into commercial property appraisals. The cost of which will be paid for by the state Equalization Budget.