The government’s decision to reject the previously approved and nearly completed Dakota Access Pipeline is unprecedented, a pipeline safety regulator told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to reject the DAPL’s current route reportedly has never occurred with any other oil pipeline project, said Brigham McCown, who served as a pipeline safety regulator with the Bush administration.
“I’m not familiar with any other instance where the Corps has approved a project that’s been almost completed in reliance of those permissions / permits only to have the rug pulled out from under them,” he said.
McCown was referring to the Army Corps decision not to grant Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) approval for the easement needed to complete the $3.8 billion pipeline.
Members of Standing Rock Sioux, among others opposing the line, spent several months demonstrating against the $3.7 billion project, arguing the pipeline’s construction would trample on tribal lands and destroy artifacts. They also believe it could potentially poison waterways, including rivers such as the Missouri River and Lake Oahe.
Many of the same environmentalist groups opposing the Keystone XL pipeline have joined the fight against the DAPL, which would produce 470,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil per day from western North Dakota to southern Illinois.
Those holed up at makeshift campsites near the project hailed the decision a victory, while ETP and others bashed the reversal, calling it a stunning about-face on the part of the government.
Army Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said the Corps would not approve the easement based on the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline.
McCown said the pipeline, which is nearly 95 percent complete, is unlikely to be rerouted.
“There’s no way they’re moving the line, it’s approx 1,000 feet left out of a 1,172-mile pipeline,” McCown said. “The rest of the North Dakota line is already in the ground. It can’t be moved.”
The pipeline has been rerouted twice.
ETP moved the project South near the Standing Rock reservation because it was 11 miles shorter and considered less damaging to the environment, according to the initial report by the Army Corps. The new pipeline also costs $23 million less than the initial route.
The government evaluated the original route, which was slated to run through Bismarck, and concluded it was not a viable option because of the project’s close proximity to the capital’s municipal water supply wells. The department also determined the Bismarck route would have made it difficult to stay 500 or more feet away from homes, a policy required in North Dakota.
Investments in pipelines like DAPL increased since 2010 by some 60 percent, according to an American Petroleum Institute study, and nearly doubled from $56.3 billion in 2010 to $89.6 billion in 2013. The increase is likely raising concerns among environmentalists about the use of eminent domain.
McCown argued in November that environmentalist-led reports criticizing the DAPL play into the reoccurring biases inherent among anti-fracking environmentalists, and contain almost no quantitative analysis.
Pipeline safety analyst and environmentalist Richard Kuprewicz, for example, published a report in November stating that the project suffered from shoddy construction and the completed parts are unable to contain oil spills.
McCown believes the report is full of unqualified opinions about why the pipeline should be scuttled and threadbare on how to make the pipeline safer. In fact, most of Kuprewicz’s analysis is not even pegged to the government’s regulatory code, McCown said.
Kuprewicz’s report prompted Standing Rock’s chairman Dave Archambault II to request that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reassess its conclusion that the pipeline does not affect the tribe’s land.
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