The Army Corps of Engineers told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that it will need the rest of the year to complete reviews of the "discreet" issues noted in a judge’s ruling over pending legal challenges to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
The Army Corps urged the court to allow DAPL to continue its operations during the ongoing review.
Last month, Judge James Boasberg ruled that DAPL's environmental review was in part inadequate and must be reconsidered, handing opponents a partial legal victory. But Boasberg said the pipeline could continue operations pending further review.
DAPL backers said that the additional Army Corps review follows thousands of pages of information already compiled during their multi-year review of the $3.8 billion, nearly 1,200-mile oil pipeline project through four states from the Bakken in North Dakota to a marketing hub in south-central Illinois.
Craigs Stevens, the head of the DAPL-supporting coalition Grow America's Infrastructure Now (GAIN), cheered the Army Corps' court filing as "ensuring that the judge's discreet issues are carefully considered," while urging that DAPL operations continue. "The regulatory procedures to approve an interstate pipeline project are well-established in this country," Stevens said.
GAIN advisor Richard Epstein, who has authored a 5,700-word analysis of the DAPL legal cases to date, concluded after Boasberg's latest ruling on environmental reviews that "it would be a great setback for both environmental protection and energy sufficiency to shut down DAPL, now that, at a cost of close to $4 billion, it has already been in operation since June 1, 2017."
Opposition groups, led by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux, together with environmental supporters, disagree vehemently and are still pushing in the courts and elsewhere to halt DAPL operations, arguing that the pipeline threatens water quality as it crosses the Missouri River.
In its latest court filing, the Army Corps strongly supported the need to maintain its two authorizations to construction the DAPL portion under Lake Oahe, a dammed portion of the Missouri River. "Vacatur is unnecessary and inappropriate under both prongs of the controlling D.C. Circuit test," according to the filing.
The Army Corps cited the "serious possibility" that it will reach the same conclusion after fully considering the remand issues because the pipeline segment constructed approximately 100 feet under Lake Oahe is highly unlikely to spill into the lake and therefore does not significantly impact the environment. And vacating the permit decision here would impose "extremely disruptive consequences."