Judge: Redo part of analysis for Dakota Access pipeline

  • Judge: Redo part of analysis for Dakota Access pipeline

Judge: Redo part of analysis for Dakota Access pipeline

After rejecting two previous motions from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in southern IL, a federal court on June 14 ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take another look at the potential impacts of an oil spill related to the controversial infrastructure.

James Boasberg, who sits on D.C. district court, said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to perform an adequate study of the pipeline's environmental consequences when it first approved its construction.

Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault commend the court "for doing the right thing", and the tribe called the ruling a significant victory.

"It's business as usual today", said Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents almost 500 energy companies including Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, which built Dakota Access.

This is the third legal challenge the Standing Rock tribe has brought against the pipeline. Driven by concerns over climate change, protesters stood with the Sioux as they were aghast at the thought of oil being driven through their ancestral lands and primary water source.

The decision marks "an important turning point", said Jan Hasselman, attorney for the nonprofit Earthjustice, which is representing the tribes in the lawsuit. "Even though a spill is not certain to occur at Lake Oahe, the Corps still had to consider the impacts of such an event on the environment", the judge said.

His decision comes just two weeks after the Dakota Access pipeline went into service, moving crude 1,172 miles (1,886 kilometers) across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and IL.

Energy Transfer Partners has argued the pipeline is safe and preferable to either tanker trucks or oil trains for the transport of an essential commodity. "Dakota Access believes the record supports the fact that the Corps properly evaluated" those issues, said ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado. In an nearly 100-page opinion, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg decided that although the government complied with most of the rules, it didn't address how an oil spill would affect the Standing Rock people if one occurred - which means they have to go back and redo their work.

In his 91-page decision, Boasberg rejected numerous tribes' other arguments, finding that the "the Corps' decision on July 25, 2016, and February 3, 2017, not to issue an [Environmental Impact Statement] largely complied with NEPA" and rejected an argument that the decision violated the trust-responsibility that the federal government has with respect to treaty lands. He ordered the parties to submit briefings about the legal question and scheduled a status hearing for next Wednesday.

With oil already flowing from the Bakken, a federal court says Army Corps of Engineers review didn't sufficiently weigh the potential impact of an oil spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Authorities reported 761 arrests resulting from protests before the pipeline began commercial operations June 1.

Former President Barack Obama halted construction on the pipeline in 2016, pending an environmental impact statement from outside analysts.

Furthermore, Boasberg ensured the Army Corps "substantially complied" with the National Environmental Policy Act, a law that requires all executive federal agencies to review the environmental impact of major projects.