Breaking News: Army Corps of Engineers Halts Construction of Dakota Access Pipeline
In what may be a temporary but important victory for opponents of the planned Dakota Access Pipeline, the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, , Jo-Ellen Darcy, announced today that it will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
Jo-Ellen Darcy said she based her decision on a need to explore alternate routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing. Her office had announced on November 14, 2016 that it was delaying the decision on the easement to allow for discussions with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies 0.5 miles south of the proposed crossing. Tribal officials have expressed repeated concerns over the risk that a pipeline rupture or spill could pose to its water supply and treaty rights.
“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
Darcy said that the consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is an approximately 1,172 mile pipeline that would connect the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Pakota, Illinois. The pipeline is 30 inches in diameter and is projected to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day, with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels. The current proposed pipeline route would cross Lake Oahe, an Army Corps of Engineers project on the Missouri River.
But it was unclear how durable the government’s decision would be. Sunday’s announcement came in the dwindling days of the Obama administration, which revealed in November that the Army Corps of Engineers was considering an alternative route. The Corps of Engineers is part of the Department of the Army.
President-elect Donald J. Trump, however, has taken a different view of the project and said as recently as last week that he supported finishing the 1,170-mile pipeline, which crosses four states and is almost complete. Mr. Trump owns stock in the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, but has said that his support has nothing to do with his investment.
The Times further reports that reaction from both sides “was swift” with environmental groups praising the decision and a spokesman for the MAIN Coalition, a pro-infrastructure group, condemning the move as “a purely political decision that flies in the face of common sense and the rule of law,” according to the Times.
The Times continues:
Still, the announcement set off whoops of joy inside the Oceti Sakowin camp. Tribal members paraded through the camp on horseback, jubilantly beating drums and gathering around a fire at the center of the camp. Tribal elders celebrated what they said was the validation of months of prayer and protest.
Mr. Archambault expressed gratitude for “the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.”
Tribal officials had criticized the route because of the potential damage to the tribe’s drinking water and that it would disrupt sacred lands.