A Washington Federal District Court ruled on Monday that the $ 3.8 billion pipeline – a key artery connecting the Bakken shale basin in North Dakota to the rest of the country – must be closed within 30 days of the discovery of a critical environmental impact statement that had not been provided during authorization. granted to pass under a key waterway.
The move is a major victory for Native American tribes and environmental groups who campaigned against the construction of the 570,000 barrel per day pipeline and a setback for the North Dakota shale industry, which has allowed for exponential growth.
The court recently concluded that the US Army Corps of Engineers should not have granted an easement for the pipeline to pass under Lake Oahe, a barred section of the Missouri River just 800 meters from the Standing Indian Reserve Rock. On Monday, he decided that the project could not work until it was fixed – a process that is expected to take 13 months.
“The court asked the parties if the easement should be canceled and the pipeline emptied during the pre-trial detention process,” he wrote in his judgment. “Although aware of the disturbance caused by such a judgment, the court now concludes that the answer is yes.”
The pipeline is operated by Energy Transfer Partners whose chief executive, Kelcy Warren, is a friend of Mr. Trump who recently organized a private fundraiser for him at his home in Dallas, Texas.
The company has said it will appeal the decision. “It is a reckless court decision that should be quickly remedied,” he added.
The 1,172-mile pipeline was completed in 2017 and runs from the Bakken shale to an oil storage and transportation center in Illinois. Its construction has been described as a “game changer” for North Dakota oil production, connecting the state to southern markets and allowing it to increase production.
But he faced strong opposition from environmental and Native American groups concerned about the potential for oil spills in the water used by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The Obama administration delayed the project in 2016 while a new environmental impact statement was issued. But, a few days after taking office in 2017, Trump ordered the military to quickly grant the easement, approving what had become a national symbol of the fossil fuel industry.
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In its ruling on Monday, the court said it “readily recognizes that, even with the current low demand for oil, the closure of the pipeline will cause a major disruption to the [the pipeline], the oil industry in North Dakota and potentially other states. ”
But he said “given the gravity” of the Corps of Engineers’ error, “the impossibility of a quick fix” and the potential damage that could be caused by a spill, “the court is bound to conclude that the oil flow must stop. “