US Army Corp of Engineers Requests Settlement With North Dakota

The pipeline continues to operate as courts weigh expedited appeals from the Army Corp of Engineers and Energy Transfer.

Facility along the Dakota Access Pipeline

The US Army Corp of Engineers asked the US Department of Justice to negotiate a settlement with North Dakota for more than $38 million the state spent on policing protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The request follows a US District Court’s August decision to deny the federal government’s motion to dismiss North Dakota’s lawsuit to recover the damages of nearly 4 years ago.

The request to engage in negotiations is the latest legal development regarding DAPL.

In a late August brief to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the Corps of Engineers said a court order to perform another environment review for the DAPL creates a new standard of judicial review that is impossible for agencies to meet as they consider infrastructure projects.

In July, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled the Corps violated federal environmental law when it granted an easement to Energy Transfer to construct and operate a portion of the pipeline beneath South Dakota’s Lake Oahe. A District Court called for the 570,000 B/D crude pipeline to be shut 5 August, until an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed, a process that could take up to a year.

That ruling was temporarily blocked by the US Appeals Court, which issued a stay for the pipeline, while the DC Circuit Court weighs expedited appeals from the Corp and Energy Transfer.

In the brief, the Corps said it spent years weighing the possible environmental effects of the construction and operation of the DAPL and used extensive oil spill modeling to analyze how a spill might affect the drinking water, hunting and fishing rights, and cultural practices of plaintiffs Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Yankton, and Oglala Sioux Tribes.

Based on its low-risk analysis, and the rest of the analysis in its environmental assessment, the Corps concluded that the effects of its action was not “significant” and does not require the preparation of a more detailed EIS.

Amid the legal battle, Energy Transfer has said it will move ahead with a plan to expand the 1,172-mile pipeline’s capacity to as much as 1.1 million B/D.