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The Dakota Access oil pipeline will continue operating at least until the end of the year when a federal court will be ready to rule on a lawsuit demanding that the pipeline be shut down.
December 2020 is the earliest time the court will be able to make a decision after reviewing all relevant documentation, Bloomberg reported. Before that, Native American communities who oppose the pipeline will have until October 16 to file a new request to shut it down, then Energy Transfer, the Army Corps Of Engineers, and their lawyers will have until November 20 to respond to the new request. Ultimately, the plaintiffs will have until December 18 for reactions.
The Dakota Access has had a complicated history fraught with protests that escalated in clashes with the police a few years ago. The opposition is still strong, and this summer, the opponents scored a victory: a federal judge ordered the pipeline emptied and shut down until an extensive environmental review was conducted to reveal whether opponents’ claims the pipeline endangered the water source of the Standing Rock tribe were substantiated or not.
Energy Transfer, however, appealed this ruling, and the appeals court ruled in favor of the project, allowing the pipeline to continue operating while the review was being conducted. Yet this was not all. The federal judge that ordered the pipeline shut down also revoked an easement for the section that crosses the Missouri River—the allegedly endangered river—and the appeals court put the Army Corps in charge of deciding what to do about it.
For now, the Army Corps has not decided on the easement problem but launched the environmental review of the Dakota Access and its impact on the Missouri River.
Meanwhile, Energy Transfer is making plans to increase the pipeline’s capacity even as uncertainty about its future persists. According to the company, the DAPL’s 570,000-bpd capacity was fully committed to date. It would need to expand that, however, to accommodate newer commitments made in recent open seasons.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.