DAPL capacity to expand; company files new legal challenge

By Patrick C. Miller | July 05, 2017

In and out of court, there are new developments with the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which transports 520,000 barrels of oil per day of Bakken crude from western North Dakota to a hub in Illinois.

American Midstream Partners (AMP) LP last week announced a binding open season for volume commitments from existing receipt points on the company’s Bakken pipeline system to a newly constructed delivery point interconnecting DAPL at Watford City, North Dakota.

AMP intends to expand its current Bakken system capacity to accept more than 40,000 barrels per day of crude from field receipt points and numerous local lease tank batteries through its truck facility south of Watford City for delivery into DAPL.

The 1,172-mile-long, $3.8 billion pipeline was built by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners and went into service June 1. it has a total capacity of 570,000 barrel of oil per day. 

On Wednesday, attorneys for Dakota Access LLC filed a supplemental brief in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in which the company claims that the Obama administration unlawfully and politically interfered in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting process for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Dakota Access is seeking government documents it says will help prove “the process was the product of unlawful political interference” which the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes—plaintiffs in the case—“instigated, promoted, and benefited from.” The court document said the White House directly interfered in what it called “a gratuitous review process.”

The brief mentions a letter from Harold Frazier, Cheyenne River tribal chairman, to the White House in which he refers to “the proposed resolution that you have promised us” as evidence of the Obama administration’s interference. Dakota Access contends this raises questions about the legitimacy of the process.

A decision last month by federal Judge James Boasberg said that the Corps had failed to consider the controversial nature of the DAPL crossing under the Missouri River based on expert testimony submitted by the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribes. However, Dakota Access argues that the testimony is irrelevant because it was submitted long after the Corps issued a July 2016 finding of no significant impact. The Corps also announced its intention to grant the necessary easement for the river crossing based on its environmental assessment.

Dakota Access believes missing government records would “prove improper interference with a completed Environmental Assessment,” thus negating the Corps’ need to consider “the Tribes’ belated expert reports.” In addition, the company said the court would have no need to consider the “highly controversial” effects of the pipeline.

Dakota Access contends that the Corps review of the DAPL river crossing was legally completed in July last year. Further, its attorneys argue that as a matter of law, the agency wasn’t required to consider the tribe’s expert reports unless the project changed significantly or it received significant new information about the project’s effects.