Federal Judge Orders Shutdown Of Dakota Access Pipeline, Citing Need For Environmental Review

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A federal judge Monday ordered the shut down of the Dakota Access Pipeline while federal regulators conduct a review of the multi-billion dollar pipeline.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and three other Native American tribes requested the shutdown, arguing that the pipeline harms the environment and tramples on tribal lands. North Dakota officials believe shuttering the pipeline could damage the state’s economy, which is highly dependent on gas and oil production.

The pipeline has been shipping North Dakota oil to Illinois for the past three years. President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders in 2017 advancing the construction of the pipeline, along with another oil project that former President Barack Obama scuttled in 2015.

Trump asked the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline to resubmit its application for a cross-border permit bringing oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. (RELATED: Here’s The Actual Text Of Trump’s Executive Orders On Keystone XL, Dakota Pipelines)

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24: US President Donald Trump displays one of five executive orders he signed related to the oil pipeline industry in the oval office of the White House January 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump has a full day of meetings including one with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and another with the full Senate leadership. (Photo by Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump (Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images)

Obama argued that approving the pipeline would tarnish the U.S.’s image as a global warming crusader. He blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline in November 2016 shortly before leaving office for similar reasons.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, who is overseeing Standing Rock’s lawsuit, ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in March to complete a full review. The pipeline’s future has been in limbo ever since, stuck between an activist-led lawsuit that threatens to disrupt the flow of oil and a presidential decree keeping the project online.

“Given the seriousness of the Corps’ … error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease,” Boasberg wrote in his opinion Monday.

The judge acknowledged that the move “will cause significant disruption to DAPL, the North Dakota oil industry, and potentially other states.”

Boasberg is directing the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a thorough Environmental Impact Statement on the pipeline, which could take upward of 13 months to complete and is more time consuming than the Environmental Assessment the corp completed before the project was completed.

The Dakota Access Pipeline carries more than half-a million barrels of oil across the country, representing roughly 40% of North Dakota’s daily productive capacity before the pandemic resulted in an oil crunch and economic destruction, according to a Monday report from the Bismarck Tribune.

Supporters of the project lashed out at the judge Monday, with Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN) spokesman Craig Stevens hitting Boasberg’s decision to “side with environmental activists to shut in our nation’s critical natural resources.”

“While we are disappointed with the judge’s decision, the GAIN Coalition is hopeful that common sense will prevail and this decision will be stayed or overturned,” Stevens wrote in a press statement addressing the move. “We remain confident the Corps’ additional review will affirm its previous findings on DAPL.”

Activists and members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe staged months of protests against Energy Transfer Partners, the company building Dakota Access, and law enforcement officials. The demonstrations gained celebrity support even while turning violent at times.

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