Federal Court Orders Greater Oversight of Dakota Access Pipeline

In a significant win for the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, a federal judge on Monday ordered greater oversight of the Dakota Access Pipeline

Citing the recent spill from the Keystone Pipeline, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Dakota Access to complete spill-response plans at its Lake Oahe crossing, select an independent auditor – with input from the tribes – to look at compliance with permits, and file bi-monthly reports on spills and repairs to the pipeline. 

Jan Hasselman, the Earthjustice attorney representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in this case, says the decision marks closer cooperation with tribes.

“Previously, the tribes, which are sovereign governments that have their own emergency planning responsibilities and staff, were left completely in the dark about responding to spills that would affect them first and foremost,” he says. “I mean, that’s outrageous.”

“Clear And Present Danger”

Standing Rock chairman Mike Faith calls the pipeline a “clear and present danger.” While the tribe would like to see the pipeline shut down completely, he says they’re satisfied to see more oversight of the project. 

Dakota Access has argued the court doesn’t have the authority to impose these measures. A spill response plan and audit report are due by April 1.

Hasselman says the tribes and Earthjustice also will be keeping a close eye on the new environmental review, ordered by Boasberg this summer.

“At the heart of this decision is the recognition that the Army Corps violated the law when it reversed itself in the early weeks of the Trump administration and issued the permits,” he explains. “So there is a new environmental review going on. We have a technical team of experts that will be participating closely in that.”

The nearly 1,200-mile-long pipeline has been shipping crude since June. It stretches from North Dakota to Illinois.

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