- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2020

A federal court ruled Wednesday that the Dakota Access Pipeline won’t have to be drained of oil, as a lower court had ordered, but the three-year-old pipeline may still have to undertake an environmental review to stay in operation.

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling, which fell on the initial deadline for DAPL to be emptied, lifted the stay on the order for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to prepare an environmental impact statement on the pipeline segment that runs under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

“This ruling represents another victory in the fight for North Dakota energy,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican. “On the day DAPL was originally ordered to be shut down and emptied, we receive another assurance the pipeline can keep playing its important part in bolstering America’s energy dominance.”

U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg invalidated in March a four-year-old permit issued by the corps, handing a win to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has fought for years the $3.8 billion pipeline that passes underground about a half-mile from the reservation.

Last month, Judge Boasberg ruled that the pipeline, which went into operation in June 2017, must be emptied no later than Aug. 5 while the corps conducts the review, although the appeals court temporarily stayed his order a week later.



Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the tribe, said the Standing Rock Sioux would continue to push for the pipeline to be shuttered.

Dakota Access is an affront to Tribal sovereignty and a threat to public health and clean water. Everyone would be safer if operations were halted,” said Mr. Hasselman in a statement. “The pipeline is now operating illegally: we are confident that it will be shut down eventually.”

The court’s decision signals more litigation over the 1,172-mile pipeline that carries oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation to an energy terminal in Patoka, Illinois, and from there to refineries along the Gulf Coast and in the Midwest.

Paul G. Afonso, senior vice president for the American Petroleum Institute, praised the decision to allow the pipeline to remain in operation during the second-guessing on the permitting process.

“The Court rightly stayed the decision to shut down and empty the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been operating for over three years and provides millions of tax dollars to states, affordable energy to the entire region, and thousands of jobs along its route,” said Mr. Afonso. “However, the failure to uphold the easement granted years ago by the federal government exemplifies the problems with our outdated permitting system.”

The process, he said, “allows protracted challenges to advance within the courts and ultimately take away jobs, tax dollars, and investments that pipelines bring to communities that sorely need them.”

Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas firm that owns DAPL, calls the infrastructure “one of the safest and most technologically advanced and safest pipelines ever built,” pointing out that it never crosses the reservation and that the tribe’s water intake is now about 75 miles away.

Nearly all the pipeline is built on private property, with 0.02% constructed on federal land, including the Lake Oahe segment.

Standing Rock chairman Mike Faith said Wednesday the tribe will continue to battle the pipeline.

“We’ve been in this legal battle for four years, and we aren’t giving up this fight,” said Mr. Faith. “As the environmental review process gets underway in the months ahead, we look forward to showing why the Dakota Access Pipeline is too dangerous to operate.”

Emptying the 570,000-barrel-a-day pipeline would have taken three months and cost about $27 million, the company told Reuters news agency.

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