Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line al­lowed to keep op­er­at­ing

Houston Chronicle - - BUSINESS - By Blake Ni­chol­son

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.

Tom Stromme / Bis­marck Tri­bune file

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.

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