Years after intense protests split the nation, the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline was ordered to be shut down by a district judge pending an environmental impact statement. The ruling is a major win for the Standing Rock Sioux and environmental groups that have long opposed the project that transported crude oil from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to Illinois, where it was then transferred to refineries in the Gulf Coast or along the Eastern Seaboard.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia essentially negated an easement that had been granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowing the Dakota Access to build part of the pipeline under Lake Oahe in North and South Dakota, saying the Corps violated the National Environmental Policy act (as previously ruled) because it didn’t produce an Environmental Impact Statement. The shutdown will last at least 13 months as an EIS is prepared, according to reports.
“Fearing severe environmental consequences, American Indian Tribes on nearby reservations have sought for several years to invalidate federal permits allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil under the lake,” wrote Judge James Boasberg in the ruling. “Today they finally achieve that goal — at least for the time being.”
The court reportedly acknowledged the economic “disruption” the shutdown would cause but said the “seriousness of the Corps’ deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow for the thirteen months.”
The Standing Rock Sioux and other groups began protesting the project in early 2016, adamant that the project ran directly through native burial grounds and was a real and serious threat to water because of contamination, citing countless other projects where spills had damaged aquifers and drinking supplies. Those fears were realized in 2017 when a leak in the pipeline occurred near Tulare, South Dakota.
The protests turned ugly during the winter of 2016-2017, as police fired rubber bullets, sprayed water, and used tear gas to turn back protesters as the harsh cold set in.