Judge won’t undo Dakota Access shutdown

By Pamela King | 07/10/2020 07:30 AM EDT

Demonstrators protesting against the Dakota Access pipeline outside the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Demonstrators protesting against the Dakota Access pipeline outside the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Greenpeace USA/Flickr

A federal judge yesterday refused to reverse his order this week that shuttered the Dakota Access pipeline pending a key environmental review.

The dispute now sits with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which will consider whether Dakota Access developer Energy Transfer Partners should be allowed to operate the 1,172-mile oil pipeline while the Army Corps of Engineers revisits a National Environmental Policy Act analysis.

Energy Transfer had requested a swift response after Judge James Boasberg for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the company’s initial plea for a provisional stay.


"Dakota Access emphasized its understandable desire to be heard in the Court of Appeals as soon as possible, and it asked this Court to rule expeditiously on its Motion to Stay," Boasberg wrote in his order, which referred to proceedings during a status conference that took place yesterday.

"The Court explained that it did not see a basis for a stay."

Boasberg, an Obama appointee, initially ordered the company to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline and empty it of oil by Aug. 5. His decision would keep the pipeline offline until the Army Corps could review its approval for the project to pass beneath Lake Oahe, which is about a half-mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation in North Dakota.

Energy Transfer said this week that it would pursue "all available legal and administrative processes" to ensure that Dakota Access, which has been in operation for three years, can continue carrying oil.

The company told Boasberg that shutting down and draining the pipeline would take 86 to 101 days.

Boasberg said he is still open to considering Energy Transfer’s logistical concerns to the extent possible.

"Dakota Access, mindful of the running clock, told the Court that it preferred an immediate ruling denying the Motion to Stay if the Court was only waiting to try to resolve the logistical and timing issues, rather than the merits," the judge wrote.

"The Court is thus obliging Dakota Access by issuing this expedited Order, although it remains willing to assist in mediating (or ultimately deciding) any dispute regarding such logistical and timing issues if jurisdictionally permitted to do so."

Energy Transfer is expected to ask for a stay while it pursues its D.C. Circuit appeal. A temporary emergency stay could reset the clock on when the company needs to act on Boasberg’s order.

Environmental groups challenging Energy Transfer’s plan to nearly double the capacity of Dakota Access asked state regulators at the Illinois Commerce Commission yesterday to take "administrative notice" of the D.C. court’s ruling.

Reporter Mike Soraghan contributed.