Dakota Access foes seek environmental review updates from US

BISMARCK, N.D. — Dakota Access oil pipeline opponents asked a judge Friday to require the pipeline company and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide detailed monthly status reports while the federal government conducts an extensive environmental review of the project.

The request comes after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled in May that the pipeline, which carries oil from North Dakota to a shipping point in Illinois, may continue operating while the Army Corps of Engineers conducts the review known as an environmental impact statement.

In court documents, attorneys for the pipeline company said Boasberg should not require the monthly reports and also renewed their longstanding request to have the case dismissed.

Boasberg issued his May ruling after attorneys for the pipeline’s Texas-based owner, Energy Transfer, argued that shuttering the pipeline would be a major economic blow to several entities, including North Dakota, and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, in the heart of the state’s oil patch.

Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes, said a decision on whether to appeal that order could come later.

Attorneys for the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes say the pipeline is operating illegally without a federal permit granting easement to cross beneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir near the Standing Rock reservation that is maintained by the Corps. They said preventing financial loss should not come at the expense of the other tribes, “especially when the law has not been followed.”

The Standing Rock Sioux, which more than four years ago sued the Corps for granting permits that led then-President Donald Trump to approve pipeline construction, draws its water from the Missouri River and says it fears pollution. The company has said the pipeline is safe.

The $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometer) pipeline began operating in 2017, after being the subject of months of protests during its construction. Environmental groups, encouraged by some of President Joe Biden’s recent moves on climate change and fossil fuels, were hoping he would step in and shut down the pipeline. But the Biden administration left it up to Boasberg.

Attorneys for the tribes on Friday also requested that Boasberg’s court retain jurisdiction over the litigation until the environmental work is completed and a new easement is issued.

Boasberg ordered further environmental study in April 2020, after determining the Corps had not adequately considered how an oil spill under the Missouri River might affect Standing Rock’s fishing and hunting rights, or whether it might disproportionately affect the tribal community.