Unions, industry respond to Dakota Access Pipeline delay

By Patrick C. Miller | October 05, 2016

The American Petroleum Institute (API) and five trade unions this week urged the Obama administration to allow work on the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue as a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., heard arguments on the matter today.

Following a session before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, David Archambault, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman said, "The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will not back down from this fight. We are guided by prayer, and we will continue to fight for our people. We will not rest until our lands, people, waters and sacred sites are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline.”

The heads of five trade unions—the International Union of Operating Engineers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Laborers' International Union of North America, the United Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers—signed a letter to Pres. Barack Obama saying that construction should continue.

“The intervention by the Departments of Justice, Interior, and the U.S. Army to indefinitely halt a project that is more than halfway constructed and has received state and federal approval raises serious concerns about the future of infrastructure development in America, and the livelihoods of our members,” the union leaders wrote. “We urge you to adhere to the well-established regulatory process for permitting private infrastructure projects and approve the easement for the remaining section of the Dakota Access project without delay,”

Work on a section of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline which would transport about a half millions barrels of North Dakota crude to a terminal in Illinois remains stalled as a result of action by the Obama administration last month.

After U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s effort to halt construction on the pipeline, the Department of Justice, Department of the Army and the Department of Interior intervened, saying they needed to reassess the Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant a permit that allowed the pipeline to cross the Missouri River a short distance north of the reservation.

“Recent actions by the administration to ignore the rule of law and unilaterally halt the progress of the of the Dakota Access Pipeline’s development are extremely troubling and a tangible example of politics superseding process,” said Robin Rorick, API midstream group director. “No legal justification for prohibiting this infrastructure project was provided, and it could have a chilling effect on similar construction projects.”

Energy industry analyst Robert Rapier, a chemical engineer who worked for ConocoPhillips and writes about the oil and gas industry for major publications, said in a column for Investing Daily that the administration’s action on the pipeline set a dangerous precedent.

“I was absolutely shocked,” he told The Bakken. “I’ve written quite a bit on the Keystone pipeline and how that all played out. I was really shocked that after getting all the permits and doing everything they (Energy Transfer Partners) were supposed to do, the administration says, ‘We don’t like that answer’ and just overturned it.”

Rapier compared the action to someone following the proper procedure to get a driver’s license, then having the license revoked “just because someone doesn’t like you.”

“The company made the decision. The permitting agency made the decision and the court made a decision. And then the administration stepped in and said ‘No.’

“You can’t do projects like that,” he continued. “It makes you very gun shy and it means projects won’t get done. It means people won’t risk that kind of capital if they don’t know what the framework is.”

The Obama administration said last week that it intends to hold a series of meetings around the country with all 567 federally recognized tribes during October and November “to participate in formal, government-to-government consultations on how federal decision-making on infrastructure projects can better allow for timely and meaningful tribal input.”

“I have no issues at all with having that meeting, but at this point you don’t say you need a do-over,” Rapier said. “You have that meeting and it may impact future projects, but this project has done all the things it was required to do.”


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