The Dakota Access Pipeline continues to be a major focus of national news coverage as parties on both sides of the issue seek legal protections for their actions. In July 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers permitted the pipeline to cross the Missouri River area known as Lake Oahe, which lies just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation and just south of the Bakken area of the North Dakota oil field. That agency stated that its environmental review of the project found “no significant impacts to the environment or historic properties.”
A lawsuit filed by the Tribe under the National History Preservation act was filed shortly after the permitting decision was made in July. That lawsuit states that the Corps disregarded the Tribe’s concerns that the pipeline jeopardizes water quality on the Reservation, which is directly downriver from the proposed pipeline location, and that it travels through ancestral lands, endangering sacred sites. Pipeline construction has already been completed on both sides of the Lake Oahe crossing during the pendency of the litigation. This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied an injunction, requested by the Tribe through its lawyers at Earthjustice, which would have halted construction on the portion of the pipeline near the Reservation. Attorneys for the Tribe and developers Energy Transfer Partners both made oral arguments on the injunction last week. The decision denying the injunction states that the Tribe did not meet the narrow standard to warrant that particular remedy, but that Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act appears to be applicable to the situation.
Energy Transfer Partners remains committed to finishing the project and working with federal government agencies and officials to get it done. The company has stated that it fully complied with the regulatory process, and that completion of the project is important to the livelihood of its many employees. Recently, Dakota Access discovered several cultural artifacts within the pipeline rout and rerouted the project without notifying the North Dakota Public Service Commission. That Commission voted this week to issue a formal complaint against Dakota Access and has proposed a $15,000.00 fine.