U.S. court orders temporary shutdown of Dakota Access pipeline

Midwest

FILE PHOTO: Police vehicles idle on the outskirts of the opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester/File Photo

NEW YORK (News Nation) — A federal court on Monday ordered the Dakota Access pipeline to shut down and empty after Native American tribes argued that the oil line’s route could potentially disrupt a crucial water supply.

The ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia gives Energy Transfer LP, which operates the Dakota Access (DAPL), 30 days to empty the 570,000-barrel-per-day oil pipeline.

Courtesy: KELOLAND Media Group

The pipeline transports oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale basin to the Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries. Native American tribes and environmental groups have long protested its construction.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” said Chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

FILE PHOTO: Law enforcement officers advance into the main opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester/File Photo

According to the ruling, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it granted an easement to Energy Transfer to construct and operate a segment of the pipeline running beneath Lake Oahe, which straddles the border of the Dakotas, because they failed to produce an adequate Environmental Impact Statement despite a requirement for one.

The Army Corps had estimated that preparing a thorough environmental report could take more than a year. But the court said that without the shutdown order, the Corps would have little incentive to finish the report.

“Given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease,” the court said in its ruling.

The order comes a day after Dominion Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corp. decided to abandon the $8 billion Atlantic Coast Pipeline project after a long delay to clear legal roadblocks almost doubled its estimated cost.

The ruling is a setback to the Trump administration which has sought to accelerate nationwide pipeline construction by avoiding the environmental and community review processes that typically slow down projects.

The administration’s effects have so far had little impact on large projects and this court order could push decisions about the future of the pipeline to the next administration.

“With odds of a temporary stay on appeal only 30%, the court ordered DAPL shutdown on Aug. 5 should last at least 10-12 months if Donald Trump wins re-election and permanently if not,” Rapidan Energy Group, a consultancy, said in a note.

U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette blamed activists for the high-profile pipeline setbacks.

“I’m not quite sure what they’re cheering except for perhaps the loss of jobs all throughout America,” Brouillette said during an interview on Fox Business Network.

Energy Transfer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, is unhappy with the judge’s decision.

“Shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline would have devastating consequences to North Dakota and to America’s energy security. This terrible ruling should be promptly appealed,” Cramer told News Nation affiliate KX News.

The federal court did not specify the method Energy Transfer must use to empty the Dakota Access.

Shutting down the pipeline will cause significant disruption to DAPL, the North Dakota oil industry, and potentially other states, the court said. But clear precedent favoring a decision for the pipeline to be emptied and the seriousness of the Corps’ deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow in order to create an environmental report.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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