Parties to ongoing litigation challenging the continued operation of the Dakota Access Pipeline LLC (DAPL) have agreed to a schedule that would see the last brief filed in mid-December, raising the prospect that a ruling in the case won’t arrive until after the election.


Lawyers in the case, between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe as plaintiffs and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DAPL as defendants, filed a proposed briefing schedule Wednesday. That schedule sets a deadline for the plaintiffs to file a reply brief by Dec. 18.

According to analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC, this means Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Circuit likely won’t issue a decision on whether to grant an injunction sought by the plaintiffs until after the November presidential election, possibly not until January 2021.

In July, Judge Boasberg ordered DAPL to suspend operations pending the Army Corps’ completion of an environmental impact statement for the pipeline. That decision was subsequently partially overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

Responding to challenges filed by DAPL operator Energy Transfer LP and the Army Corps, the court lifted the requirement that the crude pipeline be emptied and operations suspended. 

However, the appeals court left in place the decision to vacate DAPL’s easement to cross Lake Oahe. The large reservoir is behind the Oahe Dam on the Missouri River that begins in central South Dakota and continues north into North Dakota.

ClearView analysts said Wednesday that under current circumstances they see “little risk of interruption” to DAPL operations before the end of the year.

“The catalysts that could change this situation include the outcome of the presidential race and the upcoming ruling” on pending appeals filed by the Army Corps and the pipeline, analysts said.