The controversy surrounding the Dakota Access oil pipeline is not over, after a federal judge yesterday ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redo its environmental assessment of the project specifically in those parts concerning the environmental impact of a spill in the section that passes under Lake Oahe.
According to the judge, the Army Corps “[…]did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters hailed the ruling as a “significant victory”, although the court stopped short of ordering a shutdown of the pipeline – this, District Judge James Boasberg said, he will consider later. The ruling comes less than a month since the start of operation of the pipeline. Dakota Access went online on June 1.
Media quoted the legal representative of the plaintiffs as saying that they will demand the suspension of the pipeline while the Army Corps reviews its assessment. If this doesn’t happen, the plaintiffs will insist on a deadline for the review.
The $3.8-billion pipeline project sprang a few minor leaks in North Dakota before it went into operation earlier this year, stoking opponents’ anger. All the leaks were contained, but the incidents strengthened the pipeline opponents’ case.
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Earlier this month, the Iowa Utilities Board issued a reprimand against Dakota Access for failing to prove it holds at least US$25 million in general liability insurance coverage in case of spills and leaks. The company countered that it has the coverage.
According to Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the DAPL, the pipeline does not actually cross Standing Rock Sioux territory. On a map on the project website, the pipeline is shown as passing along one border of the tribe’s reservation.
Lake Oahe, which is a dammed section of the Missouri River, contains eight other pipelines that have been operating for years.
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.