Society

Judge Rules Against Dakota Access Pipeline Permits

| by Robert Fowler

A federal judge has rejected the final permits to complete construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and has ordered the Trump administration to reconsider the legality of the project based on environmental factors. The decision could potentially result in the shutdown of the pipeline.

On June 14, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had not fully complied with the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted Energy Transfer Partners the final permits to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The controversial project would stretch across 1,168 miles and four states, cutting across Lake Oahe in the Missouri River. In August 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the USACE for approving the pipeline, citing concerns that it would damage culturally significant artifacts and endanger their reservation's water source.

The Standing Rock Sioux heavily protested the pipeline's construction, drawing national controversy. In December 2016, the Obama administration halted the project pending an environmental review.

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On Jan. 24, President Donald Trump signed an executive memo calling on the USACE to grant Energy Transfer Partners the permits to complete the project. On Feb. 7, the USACE announced in court that it would give the oil company its final easement. By June 1, oil had begun to flow through the pipeline.

On June 7, Trump reflected on his directive to approve the pipeline during an infrastructure speech in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"I just closed my eyes and said: 'Do it,'" Trump recalled, according to RealClearPolitics. The president added: "It's up, it's running, it's beautiful, it's great; everybody's happy."

Boasberg, in his written opinion, ruled that that the USACE failed to consider how the pipeline would impact on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's fishing rights, hunting rights and their concerns about environmental justice.

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The federal judge added that both parties would have to return to his court to present arguments for shutting the pipeline off while the USACE reviewed the permits.

Attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux, asserted that Boasberg’s ruling was a huge relief for the tribe.

"These are not minor, paperwork transgressions," Hasselman told the Seattle Times. The attorney added that the ruling was a "major victory for the tribe."

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II released a statement praising Boasberg's ruling and also blasting the Trump administration.

"The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests," Archambault said, according to NPR. "We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately."

Sources: NPR (2), RealClearPolitics, Seattle Times / Photo credit: Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons

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