Federal Officials Urge Court to Keep DAPL Permits amidst Further Environmental Review

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week filed a brief urging the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to keep the Dakota Access Pipeline’s permits in effect while the agency performs additional environmental review. A federal judge in late March had ruled the Corps’ environmental analysis for the crude oil pipeline did not meet fully consider the potential impacts of an incident near waterways.

The Corps argued vacating the permits is “unnecessary and inappropriate,” noting the agency “largely complied with NEPA” and the procedural error identified by the Court was not deemed “serious” within the context of the overall decision-making process.

Further, as the GAIN Coalition has reiterated, the pipeline project has already undergone extensive environmental review and permitting from both state and federal regulators. Further, it has been safely transporting crude oil from the Bakken region in North Dakota to the Patoka Oil Terminal in southern Illinois for nearly three years. The Corps argued:

There has already been a great deal of environmental and technical review that informed the Corps’ substantive decisions. Given the amount of analysis that has occurred thus far and the specific easement conditions imposed, it is highly likely that the Corps will ultimately be able to substantiate its existing property management decision after correcting the procedural error identified by the Court.

The brief also highlighted the extremely disruptive consequences of vacating the easement permits:

Without this property interest, the portion of the Pipeline under Lake Oahe would constitute an encroachment on federal land prompting the Corps to undertake an administrative process to determine whether corrective measures, such as removal, are required. Disruptions from removal could include, among other things, creating the “extreme waste” of dismantling and rebuilding the Pipeline. Removal or even temporary decommissioning could create additional construction-related impacts and result in oil being transported by truck or rail—transportation methods that entail both greater risk of spills and greater air pollution than pipeline transport.

The Corps concluded their brief:

The Corps respectfully submits that the Court should not vacate the Corps’ easement decision authorizing Dakota Access to construct a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline 100 feet under the bed of Lake Oahe. The Corps’ errors were not “serious” in context, and the disruptive consequences of vacatur would be significant.

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