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Judge Orders New DAPL Review

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

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A federal judge ruled last week that the environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline must be revisited.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled June 14 that the federal government did not adequately consider the pipeline’s impacts when it ruled earlier this year that the project could go forward. As a result, Boasberg said, the Army Corps of Engineers must conduct a new environmental review—but for now, the pipeline can remain in service.

Dakota Access Pipeline
Tony Webster, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline began service in early June, carrying oil from the Bakken shale oil fields of North Dakota southeast, terminating at an oil hub in Patoka, Illinois.

The Corps officially approved the pipeline in February. It had issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for the project in July 2016, but amid growing outcry from Native American and environmental activists concerned about the pipeline’s crossing under Lake Oahe, the Corps ruled in December that it would not allow an easement for DAPL to cross the lake.

When President Donald J. Trump took office, he ordered a re-evaluation, and weeks later, the Corps granted the easement, allowing construction to resume. The 1,172-mile pipeline began service in early June, carrying oil from the Bakken shale oil fields of North Dakota southeast, terminating at an oil hub in Patoka, Illinois.

The judge’s ruling came as part of a suit filed by the Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux, who have argued that the pipeline threatens the safety and quality of their drinking water.

Proximity to Reservation

Energy Transfer Partners, the partnership that built DAPL, has argued that the pipeline does not actually cross Standing Rock Reservation, the site that became the center of the controversy around the pipeline last year. The Army Corps’ environmental assessment took into consideration potential impacts in Mortons and Emmons counties, but not the nearby Sioux reservation.

The judge, however, ruled that while Standing Rock Reservation is just outside the half-mile buffer that the Corps examined, residents there would likely suffer more serious consequences if a pipeline rupture would occur, because of their lifestyle and relationship to the environment and because the reservation is a lower-income area, making it less resilient.

The ruling requires the Corps to conduct a more thorough environmental review, one that takes a deeper look at the area surrounding the pipeline.

Boasberg has reportedly requested arguments from both sides regarding the review process, including whether the pipeline should be allowed to continue operating or should be shut down until the review is complete.


Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; North America; Pipelines; Program/Project Management; Regulations

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