Reuters | Feb 7, 2017
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will grant the final easement needed to finish the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, according to a court filing Tuesday.
The line had been delayed for several months after protests from Native American tribes and climate activists. The $3.8 billion line, which is being built by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP.N), needed a final permit to tunnel under Lake Oahe, a reservoir that is part of the Missouri River.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation is adjacent to the line’s route, has said it will fight the decision. The Army Corps had previously stated that it would undertake further environmental review of the project. The tribe was not immediately available for comment.
The 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line will bring crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region to Patoka, Illinois, and from there connect to the Gulf of Mexico, where many U.S. refineries are located.
The tribe had fought the line for months, fearing contamination of their drinking water and damage to sacred sites on their land. This one-mile stretch under the river was the last uncompleted section of the line; the pipeline is expected to be operational late in the second quarter.
“The discord we have seen regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline doesn’t serve the tribe, the company, the Corps or any of the other stakeholders involved. Now, we all need to work together to ensure people and communities rebuild trust and peacefully resolve their differences,” said John Hoeven, Republican senator from North Dakota, in a statement.
Numerous activists who have been protesting in North Dakota have vowed to stay, although the primary protest camp is located on a flood plain on Army Corps land and is in the process of being cleared.
Their protests, along with those of climate activists, resulted in the Obama administration’s decision to delay a final permit that would allow construction under the Missouri River. It also ordered an environmental assessment, but that will not be conducted following Tuesday’s decision.
A memo dated Tuesday from Douglas Lamont, a senior official with the Army’s Civil Works department, said that he believes there is “no cause for completing any additional environmental analysis,” in part because of previous assessments by the Corps in 2016.
The Army informed the chairs and ranking members of the House Natural Resources and Senate Energy & Natural Resources committees of their intent in a letter on Tuesday.
President Donald Trump, days after being sworn in, issued an executive order directing the U.S. Army Corps to smooth the path to finishing the line. Tuesday’s filing was made in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.
Shares of Energy Transfer Partners were down before the news. The stock finished up 20 cents to $39.60 a share.
(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; editing by Diane Craft and Cynthia Osterman)