Federal Court Allows Dakota Access Pipeline To Keep Pumping Oil, Dealing Blow To Environmental Activist

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Chris White Tech Reporter July 15, 2020 11:31 AM ET

The multi-billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline can continue pumping oil for the time being, a federal court ruled Tuesday.

The U.S. Appeals Court’s ruling temporarily halts a lower court’s July 6 decision to shut down the project and order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a rigorous environmental review of the pipeline.

Local tribes in North Dakota and other activists have long opposed the $3.8 billion line, claiming that it poisons drinking water.

The ruling allows oil to continue coursing through the DAPL, which runs from North Dakota through the Midwest and on to Gulf Coast refineries. Nearly 600,000 barrels of oil flow through the project daily, making it a significant part of North Dakota’s economy.

Energy Transfer, the company behind the project, would lose as much as $3.5 million every day the pipeline is offline and roughly $1.4 billion if the line is permanently shut down throughout 2021, Dakota Access said, according to Reuters.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other American Indian tribes requested the shutdown, arguing that the pipeline harms the environment and tramples on tribal lands. (RELATED: Federal Judge Orders Shutdown Of Dakota Access Pipeline, Citing Need For Environmental Review)

DAPL has been shipping oil to Illinois for the past three years after President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders in 2017 advancing the construction of the pipeline, along with another oil project that former President Barack Obama scuttled in 2015.

The president asked the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline to resubmit its application for a cross-border permit bringing oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. Trump’s predecessor argued that approving the pipeline would tarnish the U.S.’s image as a climate change crusader.

He blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline in November 2016 shortly before leaving office for similar reasons.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg made the initial move to halt the DAPL, ordering the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in March to complete an Environmental Impact Statement on the pipeline, which could take upward of 13 months to complete.

Such a review is far more time consuming than the environmental assessment the corp conducted before the project was completed.

“Given the seriousness of the Corps’ … 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,” Boasberg wrote in his opinion on July 6.

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July 16, 2020 6:10 am

The Three Affiliated Tribes north of Standing Rock are sure enjoying their oil windfall. This wouldn’t be happening in Standing Rock if their land had oil.

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  icisil
July 16, 2020 6:49 am

They wanted the pipeline to go through their land but they also thought they could extort the company for exorbitant payout for the minimal land use. The pipeline company simply went around them and this is when their beef with the pipeline started.

archibald tuttle
Reply to  Robert W. Turner
July 16, 2020 6:56 am

sounds plausible but documentation?

Reply to  archibald tuttle
July 16, 2020 7:31 am

It matches my recollection of events.

Reply to  archibald tuttle
July 16, 2020 10:25 am

The Internet is your friend!

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
July 16, 2020 8:19 am

Problem with your analysis. ALL that land is theirs, wherever that pipeline would have gone it was THEIR land you know.

Reply to  Ebeni
July 16, 2020 9:16 am

And before that, it was some other tribe’s land.

Another Ian
Reply to  MarkW
July 16, 2020 3:40 pm
Reply to  MarkW
July 20, 2020 7:25 am

The Sioux had migrated westward from Minnesota many years before and took the land from previous tribes who lived there, hence the name “Sioux,” which means “enemy.”

Reply to  Ebeni
July 16, 2020 9:36 am

There’s a ‘NO THEIR THERE’ joke in there somewhere but it is ALL obscured by massacre and hostile occupation settling title, until recently anyway.

William Astley
Reply to  Ebeni
July 16, 2020 10:43 am

Why? I really am interested in your thoughts.

Everyone in the US is born equal. Every US citizen has the same rights. That is foundation of a free democratic country and the foundation of the US. Is that statement correct or not?

Why is that important? If some people have more rights in a country than others, that is a class system.

What you are suggesting is paying or giving stuff to people (like land) because the Left or the cohort of people who want more, because of something that happened to their ancestors.

If there was infinite money, government resources, then we all could have guarantee wages and retire at 40 and send spend money on stupid programs and causes …

Do see how there could be no end of stuff to spend money on? And every cause is suddenly the most important. See climate change. Climate change being the perfect example because the solution does not work and damages the environment. One step forward, two back.

Do you see the problem with giving stuff away, when a country is highly in debt?

Do you understand budgets and debt? Most Left wing thinkers do not.

The Left are mostly ‘theoretical thinkers’ and repeaters of rhetoric/propaganda. For the Left, everyone saying the same stupid thing is more important than accepting reality and solving problems.

Reply to  William Astley
July 17, 2020 7:59 am
Reply to  William Astley
July 21, 2020 2:33 pm

Not quite. Your a little off with this:

‘ Everyone in the US is born equal. Every US citizen has the same rights. That is foundation of a free democratic country and the foundation of the US. Is that statement correct or not? ‘

Two important things:

A. The USA is a republic, not a democracy. Although regressives (aka progressives) are doing their damndest to destroy the republic.

B. Not born equal but we do all have the same rights

But bottom line is still the same, good post

Reply to  Ebeni
July 16, 2020 12:21 pm

I thought the indians were defeated and their soveriegn powers dissolved. I don’t think they have any right to tell the white man what they can and can not do.

Ill Tempered Klavier
Reply to  Baronius
July 16, 2020 3:52 pm

Yes, we are conquered people. No, the tribes remain sovereign and the treaties between them and the United States are supposed to be as sacred and forceful as any between the United States and any other sovereign state. Of course, being unequal treaties ( one party can ignore them at will, the other not so much) there is more than a little irony there. The “This land shall be yours as long as the sun shall rise or the grasses grow.” clause was always followed ( in invisible ink ) by “unless there turns out to be gold or oil or something else we want underneath it.

After having being consistently shoved aside or massacred if we objected, we have been robbed of so much that we have become very jealous of what little we have left.

Reply to  Baronius
July 16, 2020 4:35 pm

And how does that compare to the way the Tribes treated those that they defeated?

Ill Tempered Klavier
Reply to  Baronius
July 21, 2020 7:55 pm

MarkW: andwhat wrong can a man doeth that maketh it right that another should wrong him?

Reply to  Ebeni
July 16, 2020 5:00 pm

It may have been their territory (for a while), but it was not really their land.

The territorial ‘rights’, and the territorial enforcement actions were subjective (and essentially ephemeral), always changing based on neighbors, weather, ‘war’, & leadership preferences.

The problem with your statement is that nobody (including you) knows what you mean by “THEIR”.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Ebeni
July 20, 2020 1:21 pm

It was handed down through generations of my ancestors that we were really P1$$€☆ off when the Roman’s, uninvited, took over our land, built roads, built Hadrians Wall to keep the even more uncivilized northern tribes at bay, putting them under separate administration, and they built baths!

I mention this last because, having never heard of taking a bath we resisted for a few centuries. We liked the roads and the wall though. They came in 43 and we finally kicked them out in 409. We then slipped into the Dark Ages which felt more our kind of thing and forgot all about taking baths for more than a thousand years.

John Endicott
Reply to  Gary Pearse
July 21, 2020 2:02 am

All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans done for us?

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
July 22, 2020 11:27 am

Tribe wanted $20MM for the right-of-way. ETP offered $10MM as their final offer. Tribe wouldn’t budge, so ETP re-routed. Also, 20% of that oil in the pipeline comes from Indian owned wells.

Want more? Use a satellite view and check out all the Buffet oil terminals north of the river (follow Hwy. 2 from Palermo to Williston). How was the oil getting to those terminals from south of the river?

Loren C. Wilson
July 16, 2020 6:14 am

I have a friend in the oil business that has spent a lot of time in the Dakotas. He told me a different version of the story. The tribe in question had originally agreed to a route through the reservation with compensation of 175 million dollars over the life of the pipeline. Then they asked for more money. The pipeline company did not want to pay more. In the end, the agreement was broken and the pipeline was routed around the reservation. Then the tribe was suddenly concerned about the safety of the pipeline. They were satisfied with its safety when it ran through their land, but not when it went around. He also pointed out that there are hundreds of pipelines running under the Missouri River. This is not a unique situation.

Mark A Luhman
Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
July 16, 2020 11:56 am

Within a mile the 36 inch gas pipe line crosses the river, that gas is from Alaska. I watched it go in in the 80s of course the part I watched go in was 200 mile northwest of where it crosses the south of Bismarck. It crossed the Missouri the first time by Williston. That the construction I saw it was quite something watching the pipe up on blocks being welded together than lowered into the ditch and buried . Not a one protest back then.

July 16, 2020 6:14 am

We have too much government in this country.

Dennis Ring
Reply to  Marty
July 16, 2020 6:57 am

Yep! Let’s try and do something about that this fall.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Dennis Ring
July 16, 2020 8:22 am

Yep! Let’s …… “Defeat Democrat Politicians” this fall.

Especially the “emotional” decision making females and girly-men, …… and anyone that is scared “sh-tless” of the Black Lives Matter looters, rioters and killers.

Enough is enough. It is dun past due for conservative instigated “mass riots” to show the liberals, Blacks and wannabeBlacks where the bear defecates in the buckwheat.

Reply to  Marty
July 16, 2020 10:28 am

I say we’ve let out educational institutions fail in their charge to educate the populace! It all begins there.

July 16, 2020 6:26 am

Pipelines are far safer for shipping petroleum than the alternative, trains.

Andy Pattullo
Reply to  kim
July 16, 2020 8:03 am

And not shipping petroleum at all would be the most dangerous threat to our society over all. Everything that makes the lives of human society livable, safe, healthy and prosperous would disintegrate. It would look quite a lot like Venezuela or parts of Seattle and Portland.

Reply to  Andy Pattullo
July 16, 2020 9:17 am

That is their ultimate goal! The Green New Deal states it!

July 16, 2020 6:54 am

DAPL follows the route of the Northern Border Pipeline through much of ND. The only tribal lands it crosses in ND is part of the Fort Berthold Reservation (Three Affiliated Tribes- Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara) where a bunch of the oil is. The Standing Rock tribe is the one filing suit. Standing Rock is also why UND had to give up it’s Fighting Sioux nickname and mascot several years ago (wouldn’t let the tribal members vote to see if they supported the nickname or not. The other Sioux/Lakota tribe at Spirit Lake voted overwhelmingly to support the Fighting Sioux nickname).

I’ve written about some of this before on WestFargoMusings under This Sh*t Needs To Stop and The Modern Liberal Mentality

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  kamas716
July 16, 2020 12:07 pm

Hope about UND renaming their team “The Suing Sioux”? Seems more appropriate.😀

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  kamas716
July 17, 2020 8:20 am

Pretty soon all sports teams will be called the Plain Grey Cubes (You could go gray, just to be different), so as not to offend anyone. Can’t use animal names, because PETA. I’m sure someone somewhere would be offended by using the names of plants, so those are out. Maybe even geometric shapes and the color grey are offensive to some “people”.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
July 17, 2020 9:42 pm

Ever notice how many sports teams are named after despicable things like the Notre Dame Nazis, the Washington Weasels, the Bay City Bolsheviks, the Indiana Inquisitors. Surely then the naming of teams with aboriginal descriptors that were understood to be correct at the time of naming, like Redskins, Chiefs and Eskimos must be clear indications of disrespect. It is a time honored tradition to name sports teams after groups which are despised.

John Endicott
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
July 21, 2020 2:05 am

The plaid multi-colored sphere will be offended. There is no end to offense. Nothing you do can even appease the willfully offended, they’ll just find something else to be offended by and give you new demands to be met. always.

Bruce Cobb
July 16, 2020 7:27 am

I wonder how much the Indian tribes are getting paid to oppose the pipeline. Must be something in it for them.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
July 16, 2020 7:46 am

I suspect they want their hurt feelings cured by rubbing them with dollar bills.

I manage some money that owns some $ET, so I have been following this stupidity. The suit revolves around a process problem when the Army Corps granted the easement. The judge decided that the Army Corps did not do everything the way he wanted them to do it so therefore… Profoundly stupid. But then again some of these activist judges are profoundly stupid. If the DC Circuit deals with this in the last half of this year, I think they throw the verdict out. There are flaws in the verdict that relate to the fact that all the precedents cited were not operating pipelines. DAPL has been running for 3 years now. Not quite the same as saying that because there was no environmental impact study done, you have to drain Lake Mead, but similar in some sense.

Kelcy Warren who is the CEO of Energy Transfer is a Trump supporter. With the current political environment like the Goya stuff, that probably entered the mind of the Obama judge who gave the decision.

Disgust is too weak a reaction on my part to this stupidity, but my reaction should probably not be posted either. It contains lots of very rude words.

Reply to  shrnfr
July 16, 2020 9:05 am

That’s a ‘green poultice’ you are describing. It is amazingly effective medicine but is better left in place rather than merely rubbed on the hurt.

Ron Long
July 16, 2020 8:00 am

Dealing with indigenous groups is a “fatal flaw” for me, and I won’t consider mining exploration projects under their jurisdiction. One of the bigger problems is the lies told the elders by various environmental groups.

July 16, 2020 8:34 am

As a former board member of a pipeline that was never built I would wager that railroad money is behind the lawsuits.

Reply to  Lgbrack
July 16, 2020 9:41 am

Note the huge order of tank cars placed when this ship started to hit the sand.

Steve Oregon
July 16, 2020 8:46 am

It’s been operating for 3 years, or 1095 days, with no harm at all.
Yet there is …….”potential harm each day the pipeline operates”
Good grief.
“Potential” means having the chance or possibility that something will develop and become real.
“each day”? Sounds more alarming?

This use of potential harm each day it operates is no more valid than claiming every bridge has the potential to collapse each day the bridge is used.

Lee Christal
Reply to  Steve Oregon
July 16, 2020 10:12 am

I live in Texas. We have thousands of miles of oil and gas pipelines over significant portions of our state. I have never heard of any significant leaks that “damaged” the environment. These pipelines are virtually invisible. My family owned a farm near Abilene, Texas and there was a gas pipeline (it still exists) that was originally installed about 80 years ago. The only evidence that it exists (under our beautiful wheat fields–or “amber waves of grain” is an occasional small sign warning that there is an underground pipeline (to warn someone who may be digging at that location).

I have some leased land in the Eagle Ford formation and a pipeline was dug across that land. Again, you would never know it was there except for the occasional small sign.

The Eagle Ford has been one of the most active drilling locations in the entire United States. There have been thousands of wells drilled in the Eagle Ford over the past decade or so. These are very deep wells (up to 14,000 feet or so) and they are also drilled horizontally for a mile or two. They are also fracked. With all this activity, one would expect that the surrounding land would be very unsightly. The opposite is true. Anyone who did not know about the tremendous oil activity in the area would probably not notice anything unsightly if they drove through the Eagle Ford.

The same is true for the gas wells in the panhandle. Although there are thousands of miles of gas pipelines, if you drive through the area, it simply looks like well-groomed farm land. The only hint of the tremendous production of gas in the area is the occasional gas riser. Again, not an unsightly display.

I read recently that there is enough gas being burned-off at wells in the Permian Basin that would provide enough gas to run the entire state of Texas. Because of a lack of pipelines, the gas is simply burned off at the well head. The last I heard about it, a company that was trying to dig a pipeline to harness this gas was unable to do so because of regulatory restrictions. I also heard that Trump was using his authority to eliminate those restrictions (I don’t know if he was successful or not). How do these “environmentalist” justify the meaningless and unnecessary flaring of so much natural gas. We are going to burn natural gas to provide our energy needs, why waste such a large amount?

Transportation of oil is by pipeline unquestionably the safest form of transportation, but nothing is totally safe. I recall several years ago that an oil company had a significant leak that occurred in the Yellowstone River. I had a friend that lived near that leak and I asked him to assess the speed and quality of the cleanup. He said that the oil company took the leak very seriously and did a tremendous job, at obviously tremendous expense, to clean the river.

I would encourage anyone who does not live around major oil and gas production sites to come to Texas and look at our landscape in areas of high production. I think you would be pleasantly surprised and you would probably not know of the tremendous production you are driving through. This is especially the case in the “newer” production areas (production in the past 50-years or so). There is no doubt that production which occurred 70 or 80 years ago was not nearly as clean as it is today. We learned our lesson decades ago and did a great job in “cleaning up our act” as it relates to oil and gas production.

Don’t listen to these “environmentalists”. Come see it for yourself. The so-called “environmentalists” have a very different and harmful agenda.

Reply to  Lee Christal
July 17, 2020 2:00 am

PHMSA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) post incident data, and results of investigations, into accidents involving pipelines that carry a variety of products, including natural gas, oil, diesel fuel, gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, carbon dioxide, and other substances. Occasionally pipelines are repurposed to carry different products.[1]

For natural gas alone, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a United States Department of Transportation agency, has collected data on more than 3,200 accidents deemed serious or significant since 1987.


Reply to  AndyHce
July 22, 2020 11:35 am

And during that time how many traffic fatalities have there been? How many deaths due to a gas pipeline serious incident vs. natural gas explosions in homes and businesses?

John Endicott
Reply to  AndyHce
July 23, 2020 8:30 am

in other words, AndyHce, less per year for the entire US than there were shooting in Chicago alone in the first half of this year.

Richard Burkel
Reply to  Lee Christal
July 18, 2020 3:42 pm

Having recently visited Texas in the Harlingen area i can testify that the area is now covered with hundreds if not thousands of wind turbines and is the most unsightly area I have ever seen in Texas.

July 16, 2020 8:47 am

This is just in place so the court can make up its mind about making up its mind … or something like that.

The temporary halt was issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It will remain in place until the court rules on whether pipeline developer Energy Transfer can keep the oil flowing while the court decides its appeal of U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s July 6 shutdown order. link

July 16, 2020 9:01 am

NoDAPL protests had raised more than $11 million visible for Standing Rock alone by the end of 2016 and millions more for other groups piggybacking on the publicity.
The “threat” to the water supply from the pipeline tunneled 90 to 150 feet below the bottom of the Army Corps of Engineers created Lake Oahe was bogus from the beginning as a Federal 5 year $40 new water supply system project, with an intake 125km downstream in South Dakota, was already completed.

July 16, 2020 9:11 am

High drama back and forth

That sounds like the tactics of Congress.

July 16, 2020 9:19 am

Environmental activism. We’ve heard your em-pathetic appeals. Just the facts, Ma’am.

July 16, 2020 9:45 am

Knock, knock order in the court

Let the activist continue to rant (for more donations).

J Mac
July 16, 2020 11:21 am

Frack On, Oil Dudes!

paul courtney
July 16, 2020 5:05 pm

The moment I saw the headline of trial court shutting it down, the headline here was expected. The audacity of the trial court’s order was striking. Glad to see it stayed, but enviros know in which court to file their next sham action.

July 16, 2020 8:16 pm

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg is an Obama judge.
Pffft to you Roberts!

Dale McIntyre
July 17, 2020 9:24 am

Pipelines are good neighbors. Not perfect, because nothing arising from the hand of man is ever perfect. But better than the alternatives of rail or truck shipment.
I say this from nearly 50 years’ experience maintaining oil, gas and chemical infrastructure. And I have seen plenty of busted pipelines in that time.
Pipelines failures normally have a bi-modal distribution in time. Early on there may be a spate of leaks as any construction flaws, dents, bad pipe or bad welds make their appearance. Then there are normally many decades of reliable service if the line is properly maintained. After 50 or 70 years leaks from corrosion begin to crop up and eventually the line becomes too troublesome to maintain , at which time it will be abandoned.
Natural gas pipeline failures can be catastrophic. Looks like a bomb has gone off. The stored energy in compressed natural gas is enormous, so when they go wrong they can be deadly. Very rare, but deadly.
Pipelines like the DAPL, with liquid hydrocarbons, whether crude oil or refined products, are much safer than natural gas pipelines. Once safely commissioned, as DAPL was in 2017, an oil line like that will most likely have a trouble-free life for decades and outlive all of us commenting here today.
The primary environmental damage from the DAPL was from the tons and tons of filth strewn around the environmental activists’ campsite at the protests back in 2016 and 2017. Those folks must be totally devoid of a sense of irony in that they trashed the environment in their attempt to save the environment.
The hidden agenda of protests against the DAPL is the “Keep the oil in the ground” concept. This is a pernicious doctrine, never sanctioned by congress or the courts, but widely accepted by environmentalists. Expect more trouble from this idea in the near future.

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