BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – A U.S District court ordered this week, that the company that owns and operates the Dakota Access Pipeline that runs, in part, through Lee County, to stop flow and empty the line.
The long running legal battle between property owners, carried legally by two Sioux Indian tribes, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes, and the company and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has had more than 10 legal opinions from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
That Court ordered the flow of oil from the pipeline but shut down, and the pipeline be emptied within 30 days, by Aug. 5 and that the easement given by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, specifically to build the pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, is vacated.
The court said the Corp of Engineers did not sufficiently conduct an environmental analysis of the impact of the pipelines’ construction and operation on the land and populations around the pipeline.
In the opinion, the U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg wrote, “given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA 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.”
Lee County Supervisor Chairman Ron Fedler said he heard of the potential of the ruling two weeks ago, but said the decision will not have an impact on Lee County.
“I heard of this couple weeks ago. There have been some Indian tribes fighting this for years,” Fedler said.
“But it won’t impact Lee County or the revenue we receive from the pipeline as I understand it. We get revenue based on the value of the pipeline not the flow going through it.”
However, if the decision is upheld on appeal, it could represent the first major operational pipeline to be forced to shutter because of environmental concerns.
According to a report in Bloomberg Law, attorneys representing Dakota Pipeline, LLC and it’s partner and parent company Energy Transfer LP, are “immediately pursuing all available legal and administrative processes” to challenge the decision.
The article goes on to state that the disruption will be substantial with thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact. The Corp of Engineers is estimating 18 months to remedy the environmental study, which would then take the issue in front of potential change in the White House, where a Joe Biden administration could refuse to reissue authorizations.
The pipeline runs from it’s northwest point of Stanley, N.D. in Bakken Shale fields, southeast through the state, through northeast South Dakota, diagonally across Iowa through Lee County at the southern exit of the state, and into Patoka, in southern Illinois.
The ruling will now go to the same district’s Court of Appeals to either overturn the lower court, stay the decision of the lower court, or concur with decision.