FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The Biden administration on Monday reiterated that the Dakota Access oil pipeline should continue to operate while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts an extensive environmental review, although the Corps said again that it could change its mind.
The Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes have filed for an injunction asking U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to shut down the pipeline while the Corps conducts a second review, expected to be completed by March 2022. The tribes and environmental groups, encouraged by some of Biden’s moves on climate change and fossil fuels, were hoping he would step in and shut down the pipeline north of the reservation that straddles the Dakotas border.
Instead, the Corps in an update ordered by the judge repeated its stance from last month's hearing that the shutdown issue remains in Boasberg's lap.
“It is possible that in the EIS process the Corps would find new information," the document stated, referring to the environmental impact statement, “but to date the Corps is not aware of information that would cause it to evaluate the injunction factors differently than in its previous filing.”
Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents Standing Rock, reacted by citing Biden's discussion with world leaders on addressing climate change and the president's promise to be more sensitive to concerns by Indigenous leaders and tribal governments.
“Given all this, it’s baffling that when it comes to the Dakota Access pipeline, Biden’s Army Corps is standing in the way of justice for Standing Rock by opposing a court order to shut down this infrastructure while environmental and safety consequences are fully evaluated," Hasselman said.
Attorneys for the pipeline’s Texas-based owner, Energy Transfer, have argued that shuttering the pipeline would be devastating financially to several entities, including North Dakota, and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation tribe. Standing Rock said preventing those economic losses should not come at the expense of other tribes, especially when Boasberg's decision to strip the project of a key federal permit has been supported by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Standing Rock, which draws its water from the Missouri River, says it fears pollution. The company says the pipeline is safe.
Boasberg ordered further environmental study after determining the Corps had not adequately considered how an oil spill under the Missouri River might affect Standing Rock’s fishing and hunting rights, among other things. A federal panel later upheld the judge’s ruling, but did not go as far as shutting down the pipeline.