On March 25th, the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. ruled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The pipeline, responsible for delivering Bakken crude oil to the Patoka Oil Terminal in Illinois, has been safely operating for almost three years following a lengthy approval process from state and federal regulators. GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens was one of the first experts to weigh in on the decision by the District Court, rightfully pointing out the project is among the most studied, regulated, and litigated pipelines in the history of our country.
Environmental Impact Statements are a component of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) aimed to balance environmental and infrastructure interests by authorizing regulators to prepare documents assessing a project’s impact on its surrounding environment. Dakota Access’s 1200+ page Environmental Assessment (EA) was reviewed and approved by the Army Corps of Engineers who issued a Finding of No Significant Impact or FONSI. This finding allowed construction to move forward on the project along with the four other state approvals from regulators across the line in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois.
An EIS is a broader review document than its EA counterpart and have become notorious for their length, timeline, and use as a political tool by project opponents, as GAIN has shared previously. These documents can average 669 pages in their finalized forms and typically take 4.5 years to complete. Any timeline for the Army Corps to complete this newly required EIS for DAPL is a guess at best.
Companies that construct major infrastructure projects need assurances from regulators that their investments in communities and projects will be honored by the rule of law. As Stevens’ statement noted, “…a court is [now] putting their work in potential peril. Not only does this decision risk one company’s investment, but it could also jeopardize our nation’s economic and energy security moving forward.”