Late Wednesday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted the on-again, off-again easement needed to complete the $3.8 billion, nearly 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) oil pipeline project. More court challenges and demonstrations against the project are expected.
In a brief reaction, DAPL's main backer, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), confirmed that it can now finish the pipeline construction, but it gave no specific timetable. A spokesperson said the company now can complete the project's "approximately $2.6 billion of committed debt financing and equity transactions within the next several days, including access to the remaining $1.4 billion of the previously announced $2.5 billion project financing for Dakota Access and $1.2 billion from the closing of the previously announced sale by ETP of a minority interest in the Bakken Pipeline to MarEn Bakken Co. LLC.
"Dakota Access now has received all federal authorizations necessary to proceed expeditiously to complete construction of the pipeline."
The Corps' final action gives the backers of DAPL a 1.25-mile easement under the federal agency's managed Oahe Reservoir on the Missouri River through a horizontally drilled pathway that will be a double-walled enclosure below the bottom of the lake. This action followed the Army Secretary's decision on Tuesday to terminate the notice of intent to perform an environmental impact statement, along with a notification to Congress of the intent ultimately to grant the easement.
"In operating and maintaining the federally-authorized project at Lake Oahe, the Corps will ensure the portion of the pipeline that crosses Lake Oahe complies with the conditions of the easement," a Corps spokesperson in Washington, DC, said.
Earlier on Wednesday, former Obama administration Interior Secretary Sally Jewell criticized the Corps for "reneging" on the commitment she made late last year to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Native American leaders. "The tribe has the right to pursue legal action, and as a citizen I add my voice to the thousands calling on the Corps to do the right thing and keep its word to the Standing Rock Sioux."
The spokesperson for a DAPL support organization, the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN), said he was stunned by Jewell's public comments. He took exception to the former Obama cabinet secretary alleging that the Corps earlier in the regulatory process did not engage the Sioux Tribe, and he disagreed with her references to the project backers earlier avoiding the Bismarck area after public pressure from local citizens there.
MAIN's Craig Stevens said Bismarck Mayor Mike Seminary said the city officials were never part of any discussion with DAPL backers. "Bismarck has never been involved in that discussion," he said
The Corps announcement also included an acknowledgement that the federal officials are working with the tribes and local law enforcement in south-central North Dakota near Cannonball to restore the land used by protesters as an encampment to its pre-protest state and to mitigate the potential harm of debris, trash and untreated waste in the former protest site as the threat of spring flooding poses a risk to the environment and public health.
“The safety of those located on Corps-managed land remains our top priority, in addition to preventing contaminants from entering the waterway” said Corps' Omaha District Commander Col. John Henderson. “We appreciate the proactive efforts of the tribes to help clean the protest site ahead of potential flooding along the river, typical during the runoff season.”