A judge with United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered a review and could bring operations to a halt of a pipeline in North Dakota that has been successfully operating for the past three years since President Donald Trump kept a campaign promise to get oil and gas pipelines online, which had been repeatedly delayed during the Obama administration.
Judge James Boasberg wrote that the easement approval for the pipeline is “highly controversial” and a “more extensive review is necessary than the environmental assessment that was done,” the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith told AP it a “significant legal win.” The tribe claims the pipeline threatens polluting water supplies.
“Perhaps in the wake of this court ruling the federal government will begin to catch on, too, starting by actually listening to us when we voice our concerns,” Faith said in a statement.
“Craig Stevens, spokesman for the GAIN Coalition, a group that supports large infrastructure projects, said the decision could jeopardize the nation’s economic and energy security,” AP reported.
“This is a stunning decision that flies in the face of decades of widely accepted practice,” Stevens said in a statement. “The Dakota Access Pipeline is already the most studied, regulated, and litigated pipeline in the history of our country and has been safely operating for nearly three years.”
A fact sheet from Energy Transfer, which operates the pipeline, describes it:
The Dakota Access Pipeline is a 1,172-mile underground 30″ pipeline transporting light sweet crude oil from the Bakken/Three Forks production area in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. Safely operating since June of 2017, the Dakota Access Pipeline now transports 570,000 barrels of oil per day. The pipeline is the safest and most efficient means to transport crude oil from the geographically constrained region, providing better access to Gulf Coast and Midwest refineries and other downstream markets.
The Dakota Access Pipeline created approximately 8,000 to 12,000 jobs during construction. It put highly skilled union mechanics, electricians, pipefitters, heavy equipment operators and others within the heavy construction industry to work. Local economies benefited from workers using hotels, motels, restaurants and other services.
And since the start of operation, the pipeline has been paying millions in property taxes to states each year. These tax dollars have been used to support schools, hospitals, emergency services and other critical ongoing needs. We remain an active member of the communities the pipeline traverses, which is a core aspect of our business.
AP reported on what might come next:
It’s not clear whether the ruling will shut down the pipeline. Boasberg ordered both parties to submit briefs on whether the pipeline should continue operating during the period of the new environmental review.
The pipeline was the subject of months of protests, sometimes violent, during its construction in late 2016 and early 2017 near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. The Standing Rock tribe continued to press litigation against the pipeline even after it began carrying oil from North Dakota across several states to a shipping point in Illinois in June 2017.
AP interviewed environmentalist activists who oppose fossil fuel, including Jan Hasselman, a attorney with the leftwing Earthjustice which represents he Standing Rock tribe. The group said the Obama administration “had it right” in its efforts to block the pipeline.
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter.