ND Sen: Corps will grant final Dakota Access Pipeline easement

By Patrick C. Miller | February 01, 2017

The Army Corps of Engineers will soon be issuing the easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing under the Missouri River in North Dakota, according to U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

During a Tuesday meeting, Hoeven said Robert Speer, acting Secretary of the Army, told him that the Corps will be directed to proceed with an easement enabling Energy Transfer Partners to finish the final stage of the $3.8 billion project. The 1,172-mile-long pipeline will transport Bakken crude from western North Dakota to a terminal in Patoka, Illinois.

“This will enable the company to complete the project, which can and will be built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream,” Hoeven said in a prepared statement.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has led opposition to the pipeline, citing the threat to its drinking water and cultural sites near the Missouri River. Shortly before President Barack Obama left office, the Corps of Engineers published a notice in the Federal Register of its intent to pursue an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the DAPL project—a move expected to delay it for a year or more.

The tribe issued a statement on Tuesday saying that it will vigorously pursue legal action to ensure that the EIS continues and that the process is legal, fair and accurate.

“To abandon the EIS would amount to a wholly unexplained and arbitrary change based on the president’s personal views and, potentially, personal investments,” said the statement posted on the Standing Rock website. “We stand ready to fight this battle against corporate interest superseding government procedure and the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans.”

Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., issued a statement late Tuesday saying the granting of the easement and notification of Congress was “imminent.”

“It’s time to get to work and finish this important piece of energy infrastructure enhancing America’s energy security and putting North Dakotans and Americans back to work,” Cramer said. “President Trump has proven to be a man of action and I am grateful for his commitment to this and other critical infrastructure projects so vital to our nation.” 

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said, “For months, North Dakotans have been on edge over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the protests surrounding it, and for months they have faced uncertainty and delays on the ultimate fate of the project while constant disruptions took a toll on the sense of safety and security of communities near the construction.”

Hoeven and Heitkamp said they were continuing to work with the Trump administration to provide federal law enforcement resources and funding at the protest camp sites. Local and state law enforcement agencies have spent an estimated $22 million to monitor and control the protests which began last August and have, at times, attracted thousands.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford held a meeting last week with tribal leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to discuss clearing out protest camps on Corps property north of the reservation before flooding along the Missouri River forecast for the spring.

News reports on Tuesday showed cleanup efforts underway at the camps to remove waste, trash and debris. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office reported that it is removing the blockade on a bridge along state Highway 1806, the primary route to the Standing Rock Reservation.