Court doesn't stop oil flow through Dakota Access Pipeline

By Patrick C. Miller | June 27, 2017

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) will continue operating for at least the next two months as both sides in the ongoing legal dispute submit briefs, responses and replies to Judge James Boasberg in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes—both downstream from the point where DAPL crosses the Missouri River in south central North Dakota—filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seeking to halt pipeline operations and have the Corps conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS).

The 1,172-mile-long, $3.8 billion pipeline which carries 520,000 barrels per day of oil from western North Dakota to a hub in Patoka, Illinois, went into service June 1.

Boasberg ruled on June 14 that the Corps of Engineers must consider the environmental justice and treaty rights impacts of a potential DAPL oil spill. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation is about a half mile south of where the pipeline crosses under the Missouri River.

However, Boasberg has thus far declined to halt the flow of oil through the pipeline and ruled that the Trump administration’s reversal of the Obama administration’s plan to conduct an EIS was proper. He said the Corps must address environmental justice and treaty rights concerns in its July 2016 environmental assessment of the river crossing, which found no significant impact.

At a June 21 status conference in federal court, all sides involved in the case agreed to a schedule for filing documents. On July 17, the Corps of engineers and Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)—the Dallas-based company that built the pipeline—are to file opening briefs.

Responses to the briefs from the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes are due by Aug. 7. Replies from the Corps and ETP must be submitted by Aug. 17. The final replies from the two tribes are to be submitted by Aug. 28. Jan Hasselman, a lawyer with Earth Justice which represents the tribe, said a decision from Boasberg is expected sometime in September.

Last year, thousands of protesters spent several months near Standing Rock trying to halt construction at the DAPL crossing as the Corps decided whether to issue the final easement needed. The Obama administration intervened to stop construction at the Missouri River crossing site and earlier this year announced plans for the Corps to conduct an EIS.

Within days after taking office, President Donald Trump signed a presidential memo instructing the Corps to expedite the permit approval process for DAPL. The Corps issued the easement for the river crossing and later withdrew the planned EIS.