HotSpots H2O: U.S. Federal Judge Calls for Full Environmental Review of Dakota Access Pipeline

Dakota Access Oil Pipeline. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg struck down federal permits for the Dakota Access pipeline, calling for a full environmental review of the controversial crude oil line that Native American tribes and other activists have opposed for years. 

In his ruling, Boasberg argued that the decision to grant federal permits for the project was “highly controversial,” and ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS), with focus on the potential ramifications of oil spills. 

The pipeline, which runs 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, became operational three years ago, despite widespread protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental groups. The tribe fears that a pipeline leak into the Missouri River upstream from their reservation could devastate drinking water supply and sacred lands. 

The Obama administration rejected permits for the pipeline to run under the Missouri River, and ordered an analysis of alternative routes. Within a week of taking office in January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order allowing for the pipeline to be completed along the original route. It became operational in June 2017. 

Since then, the Standing Rock Sioux have continued to challenge the pipeline. Boasberg’s ruling marks a significant victory for the tribe. 

Next month, Boasberg will decide whether the pipeline should be allowed to continue operating while the EIS, which could take years, is conducted. The two sides have been asked to submit arguments for and against the pipeline remaining in service. 

In either case, the Standing Rock Sioux, as well as environmentalists across the U.S., are celebrating the win. 

“It’s humbling to see how actions we took four years ago to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet,” Mike Faith, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said in a statement following the decision. 

Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice who is representing the tribe, echoed the sentiment. 

“This validates everything the tribe has been saying all along about the risk of oil spills to the people of Standing Rock,” Hasselman declared. “We will continue to see this through until [the pipeline] has finally been shut down.”


Previous Circle of Blue reporting on the Dakota Access Pipeline:
At Standing Rock – Water, History, and Finance Converge As Sioux Nation Mounts Storied Battle Over Dakota Access Pipeline

Financiers Express Concern About Missouri River Pipeline Crossing
Halt to Dakota Pipeline Is Part of International Resistance to Water Threats


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