A federal judge for the District of Columbia has denied a motion against the Dakota Access pipeline project brought in by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the Cheyenne River tribe. This means that the pipeline could be completed in the next few days and start operating – Energy Transfer Partners started drilling under Lake Oahe as soon as the Army issued the easement necessary for construction of the segment to begin.
In his decision, Judge James Boasberg noted that the project has received the support of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of issuing the easements necessary for the project to proceed, and from the White House – this latter support particularly strong. He added that the pipeline was effectively complete, save for the short stretch that the tribal communities are opposing, and argued the plaintiffs had a slim chance of winning.
NPR quoted the lead counsel for the Standing Rock and the Cheyenne River, Chase Iron Eyes, as saying the tribes will not give up their fight to stop the pipeline from being built or, failing that, stopping the oil from flowing. The arguments remain the same: Lake Oahe is a major source of water for the Standing Rock community and the area contains religious sites, whose sanctity will be violated by the construction works.
The latest legal push by the Sioux tribes’ counsels from the Lakota People’s Law Project also contained a reference to a prophecy about a Black Snake that would bring destruction to the communities. The attorneys also argued that the danger of oil spills is not the only problem with this stretch of the pipeline: the mere presence of the piece of infrastructure in the Lake Oaho will render its water impure and the tribes won’t be able to use it in their religious practices.
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The US$3.8-billion Dakota Access pipeline, which was last year suspended by the Obama administration but greenlighted again by Donald Trump, will carry crude from the North Dakota Bakken shale play to Illinois. On its website, Energy Transfer Partners notes that Lake Oahe already contains eight other pipelines.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.