Dakota Access pipeline allowed to keep operating
BISMARCK, N.D. — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Dakota Access oil pipeline can continue operating while a study is completed to assess its environmental impact on an American Indian tribe.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s decision will come as a blow to the Standing Rock Sioux, who have argued that an oil spill from the pipeline under Lake Oahe — from which the tribe draws its water — could have a detrimental effect on the tribal community.
“Today’s decision is a disappointing continuation of a historic pattern: Other people get all the profits, and the tribes get all the risk and harm,” said Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice attorney representing the tribe in an ongoing federal suit through which Standing Rock and three other tribes still hope to shut down the pipeline.
Boasberg found that it is likely the Army Corps of Engineers will be able to justify previous decisions made while permitting the pipeline.
“The Corps must simply connect the dots,” he said. “This, then, is not a case in which the agency must redo its analysis from the ground up.”
Boasberg also acknowledged that shutting down the pipeline would disrupt the energy industry, but said it wasn’t a major factor in his decision.
The $3.8 billion pipeline built by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners has been operating since June 1, moving oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois. From there it can be shipped to the Gulf Coast and potentially lucrative markets abroad. It has the capacity to move half of the oil produced daily in North Dakota, the nation’s second-leading producer behind Texas.
Energy industry officials applauded Boasberg’s ruling, with North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness calling the pipeline “a critical part of American energy infrastructure.”
The Justice Department declined comment on behalf of the Corps.
Hasselman said Boasberg’s ruling isn’t appealable.
The Dakota Access pipeline was under construction a year ago in Morton County, N.D. A judge is letting the pipeline operate while a study is being completed.