Court Orders Shutdown of Dakota Access Oil Pipeline

Pablo Tucker
July 6, 2020

A federal court on Monday ruled that the Dakota Access pipeline must shut down by August 5 while the government performs a more thorough environmental review of the project.

In a decision posted Monday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said that it was clear shutting down the pipeline will cause disruption. "It readily acknowledges that, even with the now low demand for oil, shutting down the pipeline will cause significant disruption to DAPL, the North Dakota oil industry, and potentially other states".

Boasberg at the time also asked both parties to submit briefs on whether the pipeline should be shut down.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who says the pipeline passes through its ancestral lands, brought a lawsuit against the federal government in 2016 in an attempt to block the construction. The Standing Rock tribe presses litigation against the pipeline even after it began carrying oil from North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa and to a shipping point in IL in June 2017.

The $3.8bn, 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometre) underground pipeline crosses beneath the Missouri River, just north of the Standing Rock reservation. Texas-based Energy Transfer insisted the pipeline is safe. "We will be immediately pursuing all available legal and administrative processes and are confident that once the law and full record are fully considered Dakota Access Pipeline will not be shut down and that oil will continue to flow", Lisa Coleman, a spokesperson for the company, said in a statement to The Epoch Times. He said the agency didn't adequately consider how an oil spill under the Missouri River might affect the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's fishing and hunting rights, or whether it might disproportionately affect the tribal community. The order is also another rebuke to the Trump administration's attempts to move quickly to approve pipelines, which critics have said leaves them open to legal challenges from environmental groups.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has been stuck in court for years as tribes worked to stop the project.

The company previous year proposed doubling the capacity from 600,000 barrels per day to as much as 1.1 million barrels meet growing demand for oil shipments from North Dakota, without the need for additional pipelines or rail shipments.

The Sierra Club said that in the wake of today's ruling, Energy Transfer should abandon its plans to almost double the Dakota Access Pipeline's capacity to 1.1 million barrels a day.

After completing more than a year of additional study of the pipeline, the Corps in 2018 said the work substantiated its earlier determination that the pipeline poses no significant environmental threats.

The development is a major win for American Indian tribes, who have fought the pipeline for years, and a massive loss for the Trump administration, which in 2017 granted the project a permit that President Barack Obama had withheld. The state's output has slipped to below one million barrels daily thanks to low energy prices and sparse demand. "A few months later, however, following the change of administration in January 2017 and a presidential memorandum urging acceleration of the project, the Corps again reconsidered and made a decision to move forward", the opinion said.

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