The Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline which starts in North Dakota and will route to Illinois, has been marred by a steady stream of misinformation and rumor. As governor of North Dakota, I feel it is important to share the facts of how the route was permitted through our state, as well as our North Dakota law enforcement’s exemplary management of protesters who have made national headlines.
Recently, many around the world have come to know this project as simply “DAPL” and have used limited information shared through traditional and social media to form opinions about the pipeline, and North Dakota as a whole. Much of this information is neither accurate nor fair.
North Dakota’s connection to the pipeline began in 2014 when Energy Transfer Partners officially filed its application for corridor compatibility and route permit through our Public Service Commission. It is the job of our three-person elected PSC to handle all such matters according to state law. A 13-month review process included public input meetings which were held across the state. As a result of these meetings, the route was modified 140 times to ensure environmental safety, including a shift to follow an existing gas pipeline corridor so as not to create an entirely new pathway. The final route was legally approved and permitted by the state of North Dakota, the location for the crossing of the Missouri River was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the easement was forwarded to the assistant secretary of the Army for signature.
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In a piece published in Forbes, Richard Epstein, an NYU law professor, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, and senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School examines the Army Corps of Engineers Nov. 14 and Dec. 4 memoranda regarding the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline at Lake Oahe and discusses how the Corps in fact favors the granting of the easement and completion of the project.
Following an in depth legal analyses of the rulings previously put forward by Judge Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, as well as the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in addition to the memos issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Epstein finds the December 4th memo, “wholly flawed, manifestly political, and insufficient.”
What is surprising is that from a legal sense this case is indeed groundbreaking, because to Mr. Eptseing’s “knowledge there has never been a situation where a project has lost its permits after the government, through the Army Corps, won its litigation against an opponent to the project.”
Despite multiple straightforward findings addressed in the memos, that oftentimes support the final construction of Dakota Access at Lake Oahe, the Corps has found reasons to dig deeper that are less than satisfactory and in fact offer no real solution or alternative other than further study, despite the fact in-depth analyses have already taken place over two years.
As the legal case draws on, it becomes more clear that death by delay appears once again to be a favored tactic, as no real solutions are offered by project opponents. But within a few short weeks, the Corps arguments may be moot as a new presidential administration prepares to take office, and new pro-infrastructure orders are handed down.
Various mainstream media outlets believe the recently rejected Dakota Access Pipeline should be completed even as environmentalists continue to fight the multi-billion-dollar project.
Major newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and the USA Today, among others, have run headlines arguing the so-called DAPL’s previously approved route should be completed.
Their support comes after the project’s current route was rejected Dec. 4 after previously being approved by the Army Corps of Engineers in early July.
The pipeline was sidelined after months of opposition from environmentalists and Standing Rock Sioux, who believe the pipeline would trample on the tribe’s lands and poison its water supply.
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The USA Today Editorial Board called for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline in a piece published on December 5th.
According to the board’s piece, despite attempts to block the project, oil produced in North Dakota will not be kept in the ground.
“The issue of where to route pipelines is always going to be a sticking point. Native tribes are not the only ones who would prefer to not have them in or near their backyards. But pipelines fill a vital need for the economy and for America’s energy security, and therefore need to be built.
As for combating climate change, the ultimate goal of many environmental groups, taking on individual pipelines is not the answer. The answer is to impose costs on carbon emissions so polluters can’t keep using the atmosphere as a free dumping ground for greenhouse gases. That way, markets can figure out the best way to adapt.
Pipeline fights can make for a great spectacle. But, no matter which side wins, they will have little impact on the environment beyond their immediate environs.”
A recently published Wall Street Journal op-ed from Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota dispels many of inaccuracies being reported about the project and highlights the extensive process and review of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
In the op-ed Congressman Cramer states the following facts:
- This isn’t about tribal rights or protecting cultural resources. The pipeline does not cross any land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux. The land under discussion belongs to private owners and the federal government. To suggest that the Standing Rock tribe has the legal ability to block the pipeline is to turn America’s property rights upside down.
- Two federal courts have rejected claims that the tribe wasn’t consulted. The project’s developer and the Army Corps made dozens of overtures to the Standing Rock Sioux over more than two years. Often these attempts were ignored or rejected, with the message that the tribe would only accept termination of the project.
- Other tribes and parties did participate in the process. More than 50 tribes were consulted, and their concerns resulted in 140 adjustments to the pipeline’s route. The project’s developer and the Army Corps were clearly concerned about protecting tribal artifacts and cultural sites. Any claim otherwise is unsupported by the record. The pipeline’s route was also studied—and ultimately supported—by the North Dakota Public Service Commission (on which I formerly served), the State Historic Preservation Office, and multiple independent archaeologists.
- This isn’t about water protection. Years before the pipeline was announced, the tribe was working with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps to relocate its drinking-water intake. The new site sits roughly 70 miles downstream of where the pipeline is slated to cross the Missouri River. Notably, the new intake, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, will be 1.6 miles downstream of an elevated railroad bridge that carries tanker cars carrying crude oil.
- This isn’t about the climate. The oil that will be shipped through the pipeline is already being produced. But right now it is transported in more carbon-intensive ways, such as by railroad or long-haul tanker truck. So trying to thwart the pipeline to reduce greenhouse gas could have the opposite effect.
What’s left that this issue could be about? Politics.
Unfortunately all the processes and laws in the world could not stop the politics of an outgoing administration attempting to cement a legacy. But the beauty of politics is that they are hardly permanent.
In 44 days a new presidential administration will have the opportunity to do the right thing; enforce the law, end a dangerous standoff, and release the final easement for Dakota Access to continue construction.
The Obama administration announced Sunday that it is denying an easement needed to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would run crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The project is mostly built on private land but requires approval from the Army Corps of Engineers to cross federally regulated waters, including Lake Oahe, a section of the Missouri River. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe , which governs a reservation near the lake, objects that the project threatens its water and violates sacred land. The protest camp the tribe created has swelled with activists from across the country, who have clashed with local authorities. So, with the harsh Dakota winter descending on the camp, the Army Corps said Sunday it would examine new routes in consultation with tribal leaders.
It is hard not to have sympathy for the tribe. Driven off their territory and cordoned into a small reservation, the Standing Rock and other Native American communities were victims of grave injustice as white Americans moved relentlessly west in pursuit of land and fortune. The area outside the reservation still holds historical and cultural significance, which deserves careful consideration.
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A little more than two weeks ago, during a confrontation between protesters and law enforcement, an improvised explosive device was detonated on a public bridge in southern North Dakota. That was simply the latest manifestation of the “prayerful” and “peaceful” protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Escalating tensions were temporarily defused Sunday when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, at the direction of the Obama administration, announced it would refuse to grant the final permit needed to complete the $3.8 billion project. The pipeline, which runs nearly 1,200 miles from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to Illinois, is nearly complete except for a small section where it needs to pass under the Missouri River. Denying the permit for that construction only punts the issue to next month—to a new president who won’t thumb his nose at the rule of law.
Like many North Dakotans, I’ve had to endure preaching about the pipeline from the press, environmental activists, musicians and politicians in other states. More often than not, these sermons are informed by little more than a Facebook post. At the risk of spoiling the protesters’ narrative, I’d like to bring us back to ground truth.
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday delivered a symbolic victory to the environmental left by denying a permit to complete the 1,200-mile Dakota Access oil pipeline. The political obstruction illustrates why it’s so hard to build anything in America these days.
Construction is almost complete on the Dakota Access, which aims to transport a half million barrels of oil each day from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota to Illinois for delivery to refiners on the East and Gulf coasts. About 99% of the pipeline doesn’t require federal permitting because it traverses private lands. But the Corps must sign off on an easement to drill under Lake Oahe that dams the Missouri River.
After an exhaustive consultation with Native American tribes, the Corps in July issued an environmental assessment of “no significant impact.” Construction is unlikely to harm tribal totems because the Dakota Access would parallel an existing gas pipeline. The route has been modified 140 times in North Dakota to avoid upsetting sacred cultural resources.
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The United States has 72,000 miles of crude oil pipeline. Yet each proposal to add 1,000 miles or so is viewed by opponents in almost apocalyptic terms.
Activists spent years defeating the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported oil from western Canada and eastern Montana to the Gulf of Mexico.
Now the focus is on the Dakota Access Pipeline, a mostly built line running diagonally through the Dakotas and Iowa on its way to Illinois. It would be the first major pipeline bringing access to the Bakken oil fields that have been so much a part of America’s energy production renaissance.
On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers said it would not approve an easement to cross the Missouri River at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, where protesters have been holed up for months. The decision by the Obama administration effectively punts the issue to the Trump administration, which would do well to explore whether there are less controversial ways to complete the pipeline.
For the Standing Rock Sioux, it is understandable that they would not want a pipeline crossing a major river just upstream of their reservation (and traversing land outside of the reservation said to contain sacred burial sites).
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not be granting the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) the easement it needs to cross the Missouri River, despite the project being nearly complete.
American Indians and environmentalists camped out at the project’s construction site hailed the decision a victory, while Energy Transfer Partners and pipeline supporters are bashing the Corps for reversing its stance on the project.
Army Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said the Corps would not approve the easement based on the need “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline. It’s a stunning reversal from July 2016, when the Corps approved the easement for the project.
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