Three federal agencies issued a joint statement Sept. 9 to halt further work on the Dakota Access pipeline. The decision came moments after a U.S. District Court ruled the project could move forward despite legal action against the project from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota.
The U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of the Army and the U.S. Department of the Interior reversed U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s ruling regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and stopped construction on the controversial pipeline until the agencies conduct further investigation.
“We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act,” said the joint statement. “However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain. “
The Army said it will not authorize construction of the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe. Authorization will have to wait until the Army Corp of Engineers can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.
“The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution,” the joint statement said. “In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”
The three federal agencies also said the case highlights the need to discuss nationwide reform regarding tribal views on infrastructure projects. The DOJ, Army, Department of the Interior said it will invite tribes to “formal, government-to-government consultations” related to how the federal government can better ensure “meaningful tribal input” related to such projects and whether new legislation should be proposed to change the existing framework on how projects or approved to better protect tribal lands, resources and treaty rights.
“Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely,” the statement said. “We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. Of course, anyone who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state or local authorities. The Departments of Justice and the Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protest and maintain public safety.”
Energy Transfer Partners was granted permission to build the 1,170-mile pipeline in July, but hundreds of have since flocked to North Dakota in efforts to stop the project. Dakota Access LLC, the joint venture company developing the $3 .8 billion project, filed suit on Aug. 15 to stop protestors near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota from interfering with the construction of the project.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has sued to block the pipeline and says the Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct a proper cultural and historical review before granting federal approval for the pipeline.
In legal filings, however, the Corps rejected those claims, saying it consulted extensively with tribal groups, including the Standing Rock Sioux. Energy Transfer says it has acquired the necessary state and federal permits and plans to finish construction by the end of 2016.
Dakota Access is a 30-in. diameter pipeline from the Bakken/Three Forks production area in North Dakota to market centers in Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline is expected to initially deliver more than 470,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil, but could be expanded to 570,000 bpd. The pipeline has six origin locations in North Dakota. The construction of terminals began in January 2016, mainline pipeline construction began in May 2016, and all major materials and equipment have been procured.
The pipeline will also provide shippers with access to Midwestern refineries, unit-train rail loading facilities to enable deliveries to East Coast refineries and the Gulf Coast market through an interconnection in Patoka with the ETCO Pipeline, which will provide crude oil transportation service from the Midwest to the Sunoco Logistics Partners and Phillips 66 storage terminals located in Nederland, Texas.