Sunday, October 15, 2017

35.4 - Not Good News: Dakota Access pipeline to continue operations during review

Not Good News: Dakota Access pipeline to continue operations during review

Unfortunately, this week we also have some Not Good New.

You remember, I surely hope, the activism and protest around the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,200-mile oil pipeline to be part of the system to get tar sands oil from Canada across the Midwest and ultimately to the Gulf Coast.

Still, a bit of history to get you up to date. The planned route of the pipeline, being built by a corporation called Energy Transfer Partners, crossed the Missouri River just upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, threatening lands sacred to the tribe as well as its source of drinking water.

The outpouring of support that lead to the mass protests at the site were undoubtedly part of what moved the Obama administration to deny the final permits to cross the river and to promise a full environmental review that considered the Tribe's treaty rights as well as alternative routes.

And of course almost immediately on taking office, TheRump reversed all that and gave the permits.

The Tribe filed a lawsuit to challenge this decision, but construction went ahead and was completed while the case was proceeding.

In June, just weeks after pipeline operations had begun, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers had not complied with environmental review laws before issuing permits for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River. The court ordered the Corps to do a new analysis of critical issues it hadn't properly addressed.

Here's where the Not Good News comes in: The court also ordered a separate briefing to assess whether the pipeline should be shut down while this so-called "remand" process is going on.

On October 11, the DC District Court ruled that the pipeline can keep operating. It rejected the claim that shutting it down would cause substantial economic harm to the company, noting that Energy Transfer Partners got itself into that situation by starting operations while the case was being litigated, but also ruled that because it is "possible" that when the remand is complete the Corps can justify its decision not to conduct a full review, the gunk can keep moving.

The Tribe had also asked for additional measures to reduce the risk of oil spills; that is still before the court.

For now, the Tribe intends to focus on the remand process and has a team of experts assisting it in providing input. The Corps of Engineers has stated that remand process should be complete by April 2018 and the court admonished the Corps not to treat this process as a "bureaucratic formality" but to give "serious consideration" to the errors identified by the court.

So the fight goes on, but right now the news is not good.

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