Energy Transfer Partners announced Wednesday that it has received an easement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, allowing the Dallas-based company to finish the Dakota Access pipeline after months of protest-driven delay and begin moving crude oil by July.
The corps told members of Congress in a Tuesday letter that the agency would grant the easement to tunnel under Lake Oahe at the Missouri River after months of uncertainty under the Obama administration.
The 1,172-mile, four-state pipeline constructed almost entirely on private land is 99 percent complete, but the federal easement was required in order to finish the final 1,100-foot stretch in North Dakota.
“With this action, Dakota Access now has received all federal authorizations necessary to proceed expeditiously to complete construction of the pipeline,” said Energy Transfer Partners in a press release.
The $3.8 billion project will transport crude oil from the Bakken field in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, via 30-inch diameter pipes, and then connect to an existing reconfigured pipeline.
“[T]he Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline consists of more than 700 miles of existing pipeline that has been converted to crude oil service from Patoka to Nederland, Texas,” said the release. “The two pipelines (together, the ‘Bakken Pipeline’) are expected to be in service in the second quarter of 2017.”
The approval was granted after President Trump issued an executive order to expedite the process. In order to do so, the corps abandoned an additional environmental review launched in December, which pipeline opponents have vowed to challenge.
The environmental litigation group Earthjustice said Tuesday that the Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation is located about a half-mile from the pipeline, “will challenge any easement decision on the grounds that the EIS [environmental impact statement] was wrongfully terminated.”
“The Tribe will demand a fair, accurate and lawful environmental impact statement to identify true risks to its treaty rights, including its water supply and sacred places,” said Earthjustice, which represents the tribe.
The corps has argued in court that it undertook a two-year review of the project’s impact on water quality and historic relics, including 389 meetings with 55 tribes. The company rerouted the pipeline 140 times in response to concerns raised.
“Eight other pipelines currently run below Lake Oahe. In fact, existing pipelines have safely transported natural gas beneath Lake Oahe for more than 30 years,” said the pro-industry website Dakota Access Pipeline Facts.
The corps granted the easement for the pipeline in July, but withdrew it in December under political pressure from thousands of protesters camped near the construction site at Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
In a Sept. 9 decision rejecting the tribe’s request for a temporary injunction to stop the project, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg said Standing Rock officials repeatedly thwarted or ignored efforts by the corps to confer on the pipeline.
Energy Transfer Partners said that it expects to wrap up about $2.6 billion of “committed debt financing and equity transactions within the next several days, including access to the remaining $1.4 billion of the previously announced $2.5 billion project financing for Dakota Access and $1.2 billion from the closing of the previously announced sale by ETP of a minority interest in the Bakken Pipeline to MarEn Bakken Company LLC.”