Dakota Access construction temporarily blocked by DOJ, DOI

The US Departments of Justice, Interior, and the Army jointly blocked construction of a portion of the proposed Dakota Access crude oil pipeline after a federal district judge rejected an Indian tribe’s request for a preliminary injunction.

The 1,172-mile, 30-in. pipeline would connect North Dakota’s Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Ill., and major refining markets beyond, according to its sponsor, Energy Transfer Partners LP. The system would transport 470,000 b/d and have a 570,000 b/d capacity.

“Important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain,” the departments said in a Sept. 9 joint statement.

The Army withdrew approval to construct the line on Army Corps of Engineers land on or under Lake Oahe in South and North Dakota so it can review whether it violated the National Environmental Policy Act or other federal laws. It promised to move expeditiously “as everyone involved—including the pipeline company and its workers—deserves a clear and timely resolution,” the statement said.

Noting that protests by the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes and organizations show that discussions are needed on whether tribes’ concerns with proposed infrastructure need to be considered more seriously, DOI said it will begin formal government-to-government consultations immediately.

“Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely. We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence,” the statement said. [DOJ and DOI] 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, it said.

Their actions came hours after James F. Boasburg, US District Judge for the District of Columbia, denied the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s request for a preliminary injunction in a Sept. 9 decision.

“This court does not lightly countenance any depredation of lands that hold significance to the Standing Rock Sioux,” he wrote. “Aware of the indignities visited upon the tribe over the last centuries, the court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care. Having done so, the court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.”

The Dakota Access line was slated to go into service in this year’s fourth quarter once it received the necessary regulatory approvals.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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