Army approves completion of Dakota Access oil pipeline
BISMARCK, N.D. — The Army said Tuesday that it will allow the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota, clearing the way for completion of the disputed four-state project.
However, construction could still be delayed because the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has led opposition, said it would fight the latest development in court.
The Army intends to cancel further environmental study and allow the Lake Oahe crossing as early as Wednesday, according to court documents the Justice Department filed that include letters to members of Congress from Deputy Assistant Army Secretary Paul Cramer.
The stretch under Lake Oahe is the final big chunk of work on the 1,200-mile pipeline that would carry North Dakota oil through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. Developer Energy Transfer Partners had hoped to have the pipeline operating by the end of 2016, but construction has been stalled while the Army Corps of Engineers and the Dallas-based company battled in court over the crossing.
The Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation is just downstream from the crossing, fears a leak would pollute its drinking water. The tribe has led protests that drew hundreds and at times thousands of people who dubbed themselves “water protectors” to an encampment near the crossing. ETP says the pipeline is safe.
Details of the tribe’s legal challenge to the Army’s decision were still being worked out, attorney Jan Hasselman said. But tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said the tribe is “undaunted” by the Army’s decision. Even if the pipeline is finished and begins operating, he said, the tribe will push to get it shut down.
An assessment conducted last year determined the crossing would not have a significant impact on the environment. However, then-Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy on Dec. 4 declined to issue permission for the crossing, saying a broader environmental study was warranted.
ETP called Darcy’s decision politically motivated and accused then-President Barack Obama’s administration of delaying the matter until he left office. The Corps launched a study of the crossing on Jan. 18, two days before Obama left office, that could have taken up to two years to complete. President Donald Trump signed an executive action Jan. 24 telling the Corps to quickly reconsider Darcy’s decision.