Federal Review of Dakota Pipeline Seen Done in Weeks, Not Months

Updated on
  • Appeal by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is still pending
  • Govt deciding whether to issue required permissions: lawyer

The federal review stalling construction on a portion of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline will likely be completed within weeks, not months.

Justice Department attorney James Gette indicated the possible timing of the review at a Sept. 16 hearing in a federal court in Washington. Work on Energy Transfer Partners LP’s 1,172-mile (1,885-kilometer) pipeline continues to be stalled after the Obama administration said it wouldn’t authorize construction on a portion of federal land near Lake Oahe in North and South Dakota until further review.

The move came after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction to prevent work that would damage sites considered culturally significant along a stretch of the line. The judge reprimanded government lawyers at Friday’s hearing for apparently reversing their opposition to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s bid to halt construction on the line after he’d authored a 58-page ruling rejecting the request.

Gette said the government is deciding whether to issue the required permissions for the pipeline to cross the federal land claimed as sacred by the tribe. Still pending is the tribe’s appeal of the judge’s Sept. 9 denial of their request for an injunction.

Keystone Delays

While the statement suggests construction of the project may soon be allowed to proceed, “we remain cautious,” Christine Tezak, managing director at research firm ClearView Energy Partners LLC in Washington, said in a research note. She cited the precedent of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline, which was subject to several supplemental reviews and eventually rejected by the Obama administration.

Dakota Access has been the subject of heated protests, with opponents arguing that the project will damage or destroy culturally significant sites and pose an environmental risk where it crosses the Missouri River. Protesters have drawn the support of celebrities and politicians alike, including Senator Bernie Sanders, the former presidential candidate.

The Army Corps is due to file a response to the Standing Rock complaint by Oct. 11. The next hearing before Boasberg is set for Nov. 10.

The case is Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 16-cv-1534, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).