Magness: Dakota Access Pipeline Ruling Should Reaffirm the Regulatory Process—Not Undermine It

InsideSources recently published an op-ed authored by GAIN strategic advisor and infrastructure permitting expert Col. Tom Magness regarding the latest ruling from the DC appeals court on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which found the original environmental review fell short of certain NEPA requirements pertaining to the Lake Oahe crossing. This comes after DAPL has been safely operating for more than three and a half years, moving up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day to consumer markets.  

Leaning on his extensive experience in the US Army Corps of Engineers, Col. Magness highlights that the court’s ruling “does not question the veracity of the Corps’ work on the entirety of the pipeline and its various federal land and water crossings—a rigorous two-year process that produced a “Finding of No Significant Impact.” Instead, it says that the Corps did not complete a necessary study for that specific section, representing a fraction of the overall project, and must now do so.”

However, the court reaffirmed its earlier ruling that the pipeline should be able to remain operational while the Corps completes the additional environmental review. Magness notes, “Effectively, that substantiates the Corps’ due diligence on the project. It’s not that the work was inadequate, nor the decision incorrect—only that a piece was missing. And it is now incumbent on the Corps to go back and complete that work, which has already begun.”

The regulatory process for infrastructure development is extensive and rigorous. The Corps carefully and thoroughly considered the impacts of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The process resulted in the pipeline receiving full permitting from appropriate local, state and federal authorities.

Magness also points out that, “When challenged, multiple courts confirmed that the pipeline and its developer, Energy Transfer, complied with rules and protections put in place to ensure the safety of surrounding lands, waters and communities.”

Looking ahead, Magness suggests, “President Biden has an opportunity to reinforce confidence in the U.S. regulatory process by following the courts’ direction and allowing the hard-working men and women of the Army Corps of Engineers to do their job. That will send a clear and much-needed message that the process works, which is not only what the public and the professionals responsible for ensuring the safety of our communities need to hear—but what those investing in American infrastructure need to hear, as well.”

He concludes that the court’s ruling demonstrates that the system works, and reiterates the importance of trusting in the process.

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