Oil started flowing through the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) on Thursday June 1 as the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes vowed to continue their court fight to get the approvals overthrown.
“We’ve been working on our court case and expect a federal judge to soon rule on our request that the pipeline be halted and the Trump administration’s approval be thrown out,” said a media release from EarthJustice, the nonprofit environmental law firm representing tribes that are fighting the pipeline approval in court. “Even though the oil started flowing before the court rules, the judge still has the power to halt it.”
The tribes are trying to get the courts to nullify the approval granted by President Donald Trump soon after he took office. President Barack Obama had halted drilling under Lake Oahe, the reservoir portion of the Missouri River that flows near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, and ordered a full environmental assessment back in December—a move that Trump overturned almost immediately.
Still pending is a lawsuit by EarthJustice in Washington D.C. against Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), DAPL’s builders, that argues it’s illegal for the pipeline to operate, Earth Justice said in a media release. First, the “full, transparent and public environmental review” that is legally required for given the project’s scope and potential environmental impact has not been conducted, the lawyers said. Second, the fact that treaty rights are being overridden need to be addressed, EarthJustice said. Third, EarthJustice argued, the courts have the power to set aside President Donald Trump’s reversal of the order given last year for an environmental impact statement if the government can’t fully justify or explain its position.
"Now that the Dakota Access Pipeline is fully operational, we find it more urgent than ever that the courts and administration address the risks posed to the drinking water of millions of American citizens,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II in the Earth Justice statement. “This pipeline became operational today, yet it has already leaked at least three times. This is foreboding, as the company does not yet have a plan in place to address how they would contain and clean a serious spill.”
Energy Transfer Partners did not return a request for comment from Indian Country Media Network but confirmed in a statement that oil had started flowing through the full length of the 1,172-mile-long, $3.8 billion pipeline.
“The Dakota Access Pipeline and the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline, collectively the ‘Bakken Pipeline,’ are in commercial service under the Committed Transportation Service Agreements through their respective pipeline systems,” ETP said in a statement. “The Bakken Pipeline, owned by Dakota Access, LLC and Energy Transfer Crude Oil Company LLC, respectively, is a 1,872-mile, mostly 30-inch pipeline system that transports domestically produced crude oil from the Bakken/Three Forks productions areas in North Dakota to a storage and terminalling hub outside Patoka, Illinois, and/or down to additional terminals in Nederland, Texas.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and thousands of water protectors spent months in 2016 and early 2017 working to get the pipeline halted, or at the very least change its route so that it didn’t pass within a half mile of the reservation. The fight took place against militarized police forces from numerous federal and state agencies, led by an international mercenary group, TigerSwan, which conducted intense surveillance and treated the water protectors’ actions like terrorist operations run by jihadists, according to a recent report in The Intercept. Archambault said the tribes would not back down.
“We will continue to battle the operation of this pipeline in court and remind everyone that just because the oil is flowing now doesn't mean that it can't be stopped,” Archambault said. “The courts can stop it by demanding that the administration be held accountable for the full Environmental Impact Statement it initiated and then abandoned.”