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Energy Transfer Plans Appeal of Federal Judge’s Order to Shutdown Dakota Access Pipeline

Energy Transfer Plans Appeal of Federal Judge’s Order to Shutdown Dakota Access Pipeline

Obama-appointed judge cites need for environmental review.

A federal district court ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline, the oil route from North Dakota to Illinois that is a crucial component to the Trump administration’s plans for energy, must be shut down pending an environmental review, and be emptied of oil by Aug. 5.

In a 24-page order, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., wrote that he was “mindful of the disruption” that shutting down the pipeline would cause, but that it must be done within 30 days. Pipeline owner Energy Transfer plans to ask a court to halt the order and will seek an expedited appeal, spokeswoman Vicki Granado said.

The order comes after Boesberg said in April that a more extensive review was necessary than what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already conducted and that he would consider whether the pipeline should be shuttered during the new assessment.

“The Court does not reach its decision with blithe disregard for the lives it will affect,” Boasberg wrote Monday.

“Yet, given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) 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,” he added.

Not surprisingly, Boasberg was nominated to his current position by Barack Obama. The current administration is not planning to roll over and let this decision stand. U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette issued the following statement on this decision:

Our country is blessed with an abundance of natural resources that can contribute enormously to our economy if we build out the appropriate infrastructure, like the Dakota Access Pipeline, while simultaneously protecting our environment and lowering emissions. The environmental lobby continues to litigate their way into controlling and shuttering this economic growth.

The Trump Administration will continue fighting for the expansion of American energy infrastructure, well-paying jobs for the American people, and the strengthening of our energy security and reliability.”

Additionally, Energy Transfer, the Texas company that owns the pipeline, plans to file a motion to stay the decision, and if that fails, appeal to a higher court.

“We will be immediately pursuing all available legal and administrative processes and are confident that once the law and full record are fully considered, Dakota Access Pipeline will not be shut down and that oil will continue to flow,” it said.

In his opinion, Judge Boasberg wrote that the court was “mindful of the disruption such a shutdown will cause” but that it had to consider the “potential harm each day the pipeline operates.”

…Energy Transfer said in its statement that if the pipeline were to shut down, state, local and tribal governments would lose billions of dollars in taxes and royalties.

“Farmers will suffer as crude transportation will move to rail, displacing corn, wheat and soy crops that would normally be moved to market,” it said. “Ironically, the counties along these rail lines will face increased environmental risks due to the increased amount of crude oil traveling by rail.”

The environmentalists’ victory may be Pyrrhic even if the appeal fails. Also, if the ruling stands and halts the oil flow, the pipeline could resume operations after the Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental review is completed.

Finally, it must before noted that before Seattle’s “CHOP” was created, protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline created a self-autonomous zone that became the “Burning Man” of the Mid West, including a mountain of trash that threatened to become an environmental disaster.

Here is a video journey back in time, recalling the horrendous mess left by the “nature lovers”:


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How did the pipeline get the first permit without an environmental study? You cant get the initial permit without an environmental study.

So the judge is requiring a second environmental study?

    Milhouse in reply to Joe-dallas. | July 8, 2020 at 9:26 am

    Your answer is right there in the report:

    The order comes after Boesberg said in April that a more extensive review was necessary than what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already conducted […] given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) error

    So the Corps did a review, but according to the judge it made a serious error in interpreting the NEPA so that review was insufficient.

    If you follow the link to the story about the April decision, you will find this:

    Permits for the project were originally rejected by the Obama administration, and the Corps prepared to conduct a full environmental review. In February 2017, shortly after Donald Trump took office, the Corps scrapped the review and granted permits for the project, concluding that running the pipeline under the Missouri River posed no significant environmental issues. The Corps said that opinion was validated after an additional year of reviewing the project, as ordered by the court.

    Boasberg said during one of his many opinions on the case that the project “largely complied” with requirements for the National Environmental Policy Act, but left the door open for the tribes when he said there were “substantial exceptions” to meeting those rules. He ordered further review on the potential impact of the project.

    The ruling issued Wednesday focused on whether “the project’s effects were likely to be highly controversial.” The judge cited concerns with the leak detection system, operator safety record, the impact of North Dakota winters and the analysis of a worst-case scenario for a spill.

    Much of Boasberg’s ruling was based on a 2019 case decided by a Washington D.C. federal appeals court that considered whether agencies adequately dealt with expert criticisms such as those in the Dakota Access Pipeline case. Applying that case, Boasberg wrote that he “ultimately concludes that too many questions remain unanswered.”

    So they never did a full review, they did one that is “good enough”, but the law requires that in cases that are likely to be “highly controversial” a full review be done.

      Joe-dallas in reply to Milhouse. | July 8, 2020 at 9:33 am

      Millhouse – My comment was somewhat sarcastic. Knowing that there was an environmental study that supported the project and knowing that “errors” in the original study (valid or invalid) always supported the need for additional studies.

        I like sarcasm.

        New-speak must mean “continue studying until you reach the politically-approved conclusion”.

          More like “Studied to death” like the Obama administration was trying to do.

          “Gee, that’s a nice study, but we see a few typos and errors in it, so we’re invalidating the whole thing and you have to start over. Again.”

The statement that the victory might be a pyrrhic one fails to take into account that the purpose of this kind of review isn’t to stop the work from ever happening.

It will be cited in fundraising letters for years to come as an important victory, but one that can only be protected and continued “with your tax deductible donation.”

It also sends the message to businesses everywhere that the costs of certain kind of work will remain very high, while the schedule can’t be predicted.

Raise money, tell the world to stay off your turf. This has been a grand success all the way around.

    casualobserver in reply to irv. | July 8, 2020 at 9:54 am

    It also is a part of a lawfare strategy that doesn’t necessarily measure success by the final outcome. That is, you spend to make “them” spend. The goal is to make something so much more expensive via costs of defense and other reg costs (like studies) that you either price it up to be noncompetitive or you do get the desired result of companies finally quitting the effort.

    See Duke and Dominion of late >> They are e.g. abandoning pipelines because the resistance and regulatory costs are sufficiently unpredictable that they no longer want the risk.

    That is also promoted in fundraising. In so many words, “We have to outspend them” is just as prevalent as “We must win in the courts”….Etc.

The environmentalists’ victory may be Pyrrhic even if the appeal fails.

I assume you mean because the environmental risk from shipping the oil by rail will be worse. But the purpose of the case was never to protect the environment, it was to make projects like this as expensive as possible, to discourage them from being attempted in the first place. The environazis’ object is not to protect the environment but to retard human progress. Their core ideology is that Nature is good and humans are evil. It’s like White guilt, but non-racist; all humans are guilty. It goes back to pagan times, and ultimately that’s where the Christian doctrine of Original Sin and the Fallenness of Man comes from.

    Voyager in reply to Milhouse. | July 8, 2020 at 10:43 am

    Yeah. They just want to break things, with ultimate environmental damage being irrelevant in the end. I could easily see one of them trying to simply dynamiting the pipeline at some point because “pipes bad”.

      Dusty Pitts in reply to Voyager. | July 8, 2020 at 11:05 am

      Not irrelevant.

      Every leftist cause depends on things getting worse. If their fights lead to “victories” that result in things getting worse, that’s a win-win for them.

TrickyRicky | July 8, 2020 at 9:40 am

Thank God for this ruling. Everyone knows that oil transport by rail or truck is so much safer than these nasty pipelines. Just ask the residents of Lac-Mégantic.

The appropriate response of the Trump administration is to order the EPA to conduct an environmental review of the judge’s order to shut down and empty the pipe line. Until then, it keeps operating. (The law applies to even the Courts, no?).

The argument that Trump cites is the recent SCOTUS decision refusing to let Trump overturn the DACA executive order, namely, you cannot disrupt the lives of people unless you go through the process that removes any arbitrary or capricious doubts.

BierceAmbrose | July 8, 2020 at 11:52 am

Oh, fer frack’s sake.

All qualifications, including “reviews” are “good enough.” There is no absolute completeness, or certainty. There can be an agreement about what’s “good enough.” Declining to agree what’s “good enough” is a kind of cheat – Lucy and the Football. Agreeing what’ss good enough to go forward, then changing the rules — Psyche! — is fraud. Nobody deals with such folks unless they have to.

You see this all the time. “Hey, you weren’t supposed to get over that hurdle; so, now we’ll make a new one.” Vague laws n herds of interpre-drones are fodder for this ploy. “Hey, there’s a rule… It’s a new rule. It’s a rule I just made.”

In this case, Enviro-Bots continue to push the goal posts one way, while parts of this administration are pushing the other, contra last administration that was pushing along with the no-you-cant’s.

The goal posts are being moved, putting the same study over the line, or not. It ain’t the study.

Let us recall the possible pipeline – this one, as I recall – that suddenly needed approval of State Depertment’s own environmental review. Under the last admin. Once it was otherwise good to go. Shocklingly not “successful.” (Who was Sec of State at that time, I wonder?)

It isn’t so much that they dislike this pipeline. Rather to demonstrate: “If we don’t like it, we’ll find a way to stop it.”

Pours encourager les autres. The next guy won’t try to make a pipeline. (Any similarity to the treatment of small, independent businesses is … they’re just running the same play.)

Trump must deal with this swiftly

    tom in reply to gonzotx. | July 8, 2020 at 5:36 pm

    Then maybe he could deal with wretched Gretchen and attorney general nasty Nessel trying to close down “line 5”.


Looks like another big bonanza for BNSF.