The Dakota Access Pipeline will be allowed to operate without a key federal permit while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes a new environmental review, the Biden administration announced earlier this week.
After an appeal court decision in February upheld District Judge James Boasberg’s decision to reject a federal easement, the Army Corps had decided in April to allow the controversial pipeline to remain in operation until it completes its supplementary review in March 2022. The Standing Rock Sioux, other tribes, and U.S. environmental groups had hoped the new administration would shut down the pipeline, The Associated Press reports. But the decision went the other way.
“It is possible that in the [Environmental Impact Statement] process the Corps would find new information, but to date the Corps is not aware of information that would cause it to evaluate the injunction factors differently than in its previous filing,” the Army Corps said in a court-ordered update.
Earthjustice lawyer Jan Hasselman said the result ran counter to U.S. President Joe Biden’s remarks at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate April 22, as well as his commitment to listen more closely to Indigenous concerns.
“Given all this, it’s baffling that when it comes to the Dakota Access pipeline, Biden’s Army Corps is standing in the way of justice for Standing Rock by opposing a court order to shut down this infrastructure while environmental and safety consequences are fully evaluated,” he said.
Lawyers for Texas-based pipeliner Energy Transfer Partners said a pipeline shutdown would bring financial devastation to North Dakota, and to three Indigenous tribes, AP writes. Standing Rock, which has concerns about the pipeline’s risk to its water supply on the Missouri River, “said preventing those economic losses should not come at the expense of other tribes, especially when Boasberg’s decision to strip the project of a key federal permit has been supported by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Dakota Access dodged an immediate shutdown order last year, after an appeal of an earlier Boasberg decision in July 2020. That ruling gave Energy Transfer 30 days to comply, but the pipeline operator said it would need 86 to 101 days to empty the pipeline and keep it in condition for future use.
The company also said it would cost US$24 million to empty and preserve the pipeline and $67.5 million per year to keep it out of operation, AP reported at the time. When similar numbers first surfaced, Hasselman said ETP “has a history of wild exaggeration,” and in this case, “we think the claims are overblown”.