Dakota Access oil pipeline users downplay need for line to investors

By Laila Kearney and Devika Krishna Kumar

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The largest oil pipeline out of the Bakken shale formation in North Dakota could be forced to shut this week, and the companies that use it are telling investors they can survive without it. But in legal filings, they have made its closure seem dire.

The 570,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is facing a federal court order to be closed and drained pending a new environmental assessment. A decision on whether it can remain running while a legal battle continues is expected any day. The pipeline is critical for moving oil out of North Dakota, the second-largest crude-producing state, trailing only Texas.

Numerous industry groups and states issued legal statements in support of DAPL both prior to and after a judge last month ordered the line, operated by Energy Transfer LP, closed by early August.

Before opening in 2017, producers and refiners relied on a patchwork of pipelines and rail to get oil out of the region.

But on recent earnings calls and fillings, companies including Marathon Petroleum Corp and Continental Resources Inc, the largest Bakken producer, said they have plenty of alternatives should the line be shut.

“It would not have a major impact on moving all of our production if DAPL were shut in, and the cost to us would be a few dollars per barrel,” said John Hess, chief executive officer of Hess Corp, which transports about 55,000 bpd of oil on DAPL, on an earnings call last week.

However, in an April court filing, the company said it “does not have other practical options to transport the crude oil that is currently being shipped on DAPL.”

A source familiar with the company’s thinking said Hess has since found alternatives for shipping its oil.

The differing statements come down to the need to reassure investors, experts said.

“They really shouldn’t do that,” said Ted Borrego, who has practiced oil and gas law for over 45 years and teaches at the University of Houston Law Center. “But a big chunk of what you need to be able to drill wells is money, and if you’ve got investors that are nervous, they tend to sit on their wallets.”

Last month, a U.S. district court judge found fault with one of the pipeline’s permits and ordered DAPL shut and drained by Aug. 5. That order was delayed by an appeals court, which is still deciding whether DAPL can remain in use during the appeals process.

Energy Transfer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Producers and refiners that use Bakken oil relied for years on rail transit due to the lack of pipelines. North Dakota output peaked at 1.5 million bpd in late 2019 and is at about 1 million bpd as of August, according to the state’s Department of Mineral Resources.

“The loss of the pipeline has less of an impact if production is reduced,” said Sandy Fielden, analyst at financial services firm Morningstar.

Privately, shippers and executives say ramping up rail shipments takes time and rail cannot handle the same volume as pipelines. One unit train can carry between 50,000 and 90,000 barrels of oil, far less than DAPL’s daily capacity.

“No producer wants DAPL to close,” said one shipper on the line, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In May, 52 million barrels of crude was transported from the PADD 2 region that includes North Dakota to the U.S. Gulf Coast, compared with just 351,000 barrels shipped via rail, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

Continental Resources said in a legal filing in June that shutting the line could cost between $4 and $7 a barrel extra, boosting costs for all producers and shippers by $832 million to $1.5 billion annually. Bakken oil currently costs about 20 cents less than U.S. benchmark crude.

Executives on the company’s earnings call on Tuesday said they were confident that the line would remain open.

(Additional reporting by Arathy S Nair; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

U.S. judge rejects latest Dakota Access effort to avoid pipeline shutdown

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge on Thursday rejected the latest effort by Dakota Access, LLC, to avoid a court-ordered shutdown of its 570,000-barrel-per-day oil pipeline, paving the way for the company to file an appeal with a higher court.

The decision marks the latest legal twist since the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week ordered the largest oil pipeline out of North Dakota to shut and empty within 30 days because of a faulty environmental permit.

Dakota Access had asked the court to stay its order pending a legal challenge – a measure that would have bought it more time to comply – after the court had rejected an emergency request for reconsideration.

District Judge James Boasberg said in a hearing on Thursday he would not reconsider his order but would allow Dakota Access to negotiate with Native American tribes on granting more time to shut and empty the pipeline.

A portion of the line runs under South Dakota’s Lake Oahe, a drinking-water source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which long opposed the pipeline.

Dakota Access said it would prefer the judge deny the request outright so it could pursue its appeal in a higher court.

“We want to get to the D.C. Circuit (court) to be able to seek a stay if your honor won’t give us one,” David Debold, a lawyer for Dakota Access, said at the hearing.

Boasberg said he would do so by the end of the day.

Dakota Access, controlled by Energy Transfer LP, says it would lose $2.8 million to $3.5 million each day the line is idled in 2020 and as much as $1.4 billion for the whole of next year. Purging the line, which runs 1,172 miles (1,886 km) from the Bakken shale region in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, would take about three months and cost roughly $27 million, it said.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Richard Chang and Peter Cooney)

Energy Transfer digs in on North Dakota pipeline expansion despite oil slump, sources say

By Laila Kearney and Devika Krishna Kumar

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. pipeline company Energy Transfer has taken the rare step of invoking force majeure – normally used in times of war or natural disaster – to prevent oil firms from walking away from a proposed expansion of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Energy Transfer wants to nearly double the size of the line, and some companies that signed up say it is no longer necessary due to the sharp fall in U.S. oil production after the coronavirus pandemic. North Dakota is one of the costliest spots in the United States to produce crude, and its output has dropped by about one-third from last year, more than most other oil-producing states.

DAPL is the largest pipeline running out of North Dakota’s Bakken shale basin. It has capacity to ship 570,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude to its endpoint in Illinois. Users say an expansion to 1.1 million bpd is unlikely to be filled because the state’s production is not expected to rebound soon.

“Honestly, DAPL is not needed,” said one customer who committed to space on the expanded line, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They’re trying to build a house that all these people signed up for. Even if there’s no longer a need for the house, you can’t really walk away from it. Would I like to get out? Yes, for sure.”

Energy Transfer, however, has invoked force majeure because it could not get the permits by a certain date, according to one shipper on the line and another familiar with the declaration. That buys the company more time to get regulatory approvals and prevents customers from walking away from their commitments.

The company declined to comment on the force majeure. Energy Transfer spokeswoman Lisa Coleman reiterated previous company statements that it has received enough interest to increase the pipeline’s capacity.

Pipelines are generally built after companies find customers willing to commit to shipping oil. That helps pipeline builders to line up financing for such projects, which take years to complete. Contracts to use future pipeline space usually allow customers to walk away from those agreements when substantial delays occur.

In an April filing with Illinois regulators, Energy Transfer said that “not one shipper has sought to withdraw from an existing agreement” despite the oil downturn and that demand exceeds DAPL’s current capacity. The company said in legal filings that the downturn is temporary.

North Dakota’s production has dropped by 450,000 bpd, down from a peak of nearly 1.5 million bpd reached last year, according to the Energy Information Administration’s data.

The expanded line is currently expected to enter service in late 2021.

At least a half-dozen U.S. oil pipeline projects have been put on hold indefinitely so far this year, according to U.S. Energy Department data. U.S. production has dropped from a record 12.9 million bpd in late 2019 to roughly 11 million bpd.

OPPOSITION IN ILLINOIS

DAPL drew thousands of people to North Dakota in 2016 in support of Native American tribes and environmental groups protesting the line’s initial construction. It eventually started in mid-2017 after months of delays.

To expand the line, Energy Transfer needs approval from regulators in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

The first three have said yes, but environmental groups brought numerous legal challenges in Illinois starting a year ago. They argued the application was improperly filed and that an expansion increases the risk of large-scale leaks. The challenges may force the company to resubmit its application.

“They’re in force majeure right now because they did not get the permits,” one source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

An administrative law judge in Illinois could issue findings on the legal dispute as early as this month, though there is no timeline for that report. Once those findings are released, and both Energy Transfer and the opposition respond, the Illinois Commerce Commission will vote on whether the expansion can go forward. That vote has not been scheduled.

Even if producers wanted to fight Energy Transfer’s declaration of force majeure, they may be hesitant to initiate legal action due to the time and cost involved, said Ted Borrego, who has practiced oil and gas law for over 45 years and teaches at the University of Houston Law Center.

“Rarely will you see a shipper trying to bail out of a contract,” he said.

DAPL customers such as Hess Corp and refiner Marathon Petroleum, which invested in the original DAPL project, declined to comment specifically on any contractual agreements on DAPL or on the proposed expansion. Continental Resources, another large Bakken producer, did not respond to requests for comment.

“Hess believes that DAPL has and will continue to be a critical piece of U.S. energy infrastructure, which allows for transportation of crude oil into expanded domestic markets in the U.S. and abroad,” company spokesman Rob Young said.

Bakken crude producers generally break even on drilling at a price of about $46.50 a barrel, according to Deutsche Bank analysts, higher than other parts of the country. The U.S. crude oil benchmark is trading just below $40, after averaging just $17.50 in April and $33.70 in May.

While output in North Dakota has rebounded somewhat from its fall in May to less than 1 million bpd, production is expected to remain lower than its peak.

“At the moment I don’t think the demand is there from shippers for more DAPL, given the decline in Bakken output,” said Sandy Fielden, director of oil and products research at Morningstar in Austin, Texas.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney and Devika Krishna Kumar; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

U.S. judge denies tribe’s request to stop oil flow in Dakota Access pipeline

Members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and others sing as they prepare to evacuate the main opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by a Native American tribe for an emergency injunction to prevent oil from flowing through part of the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying such a move would be against the public interest.

The ruling, issued in court documents ahead of plans to start pumping oil through the pipeline next week, follows months of demonstrations in a remote part of North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe demonstrated in an attempt to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing upstream from their reservation.

Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued his decision denying the request by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, saying the court “acknowledges that the tribe is likely to suffer irreparable harm to its members’ religious exercise if oil is introduced into the pipeline, but Dakota Access would also be substantially harmed by an injunction, given the financial and logistical injuries that would ensue.”

The pipeline is nearing completion after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month smoothing the path for construction. He also cleared the way for the Keystone XL project that would pipe Canadian crude into the United States.

The Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux last week lost a legal bid to halt construction of the last link of the pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, which they say threatens tribal lands. The pipeline will be ready to carry oil by April 1.

Among the Republican Trump’s first acts in office was to sign an executive order that reversed a decision by the previous administration of Democratic President Barack Obama to delay approval of the Dakota pipeline, a $3.8 billion project by Energy Transfer Partners LP <ETP.N>.

Boasberg noted in his decision that any ruling to allow the tribe’s request for an injunction preventing oil from flowing through the pipeline would likely be overturned on appeal.

Thousands of Native American demonstrators and their supporters marched to the White House last Friday to voice outrage at Trump’s decision.

(Reporting by David Gaffen; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by G Crosse and Peter Cooney)

Native American groups take oil pipeline protests to White House

Little Thunder, a traditional dancer and indigenous activist from the Lakota tribe, dances as he demonstrates in front of the White House during a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Thousands of Native American demonstrators and their supporters marched to the White House on Friday to voice outrage at President Donald Trump’s support for the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines, which they say threaten tribal lands.

The protest follows months of demonstrations in a remote part of North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe demonstrated in an attempt to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing upstream from their reservation.

That pipeline is being installed now, after Trump signed an executive order last month smoothing the path for construction. He also cleared the way for the Keystone XL project that would pipe Canadian crude into the United States.

The protesters, some wearing traditional tribal garb, carried signs reading “Native Lives Matter”, “Water is Life”, and “Protect the Water” while marching.

A White House official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“You stood with us at Standing Rock and now I ask you to stand with our indigenous communities around the world,” Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, said at the rally.

Among Republican Trump’s first acts in office was to sign an executive order that reversed a decision by the previous administration of Democratic President Barack Obama to delay approval of the Dakota pipeline, a $3.8 billion project by Energy Transfer Partners LP.

The Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux lost a legal bid to halt the construction of the last link of the oil pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The pipeline is due to be complete and ready for oil by April 1.

At the rally, Archambault’s remarks were interrupted intermittently by both supportive cheers and boos from people who shouted that he “sold out” protestors by allowing the main anti-pipeline protest camp, Oceti Sakewin, to clear out.

“I don’t care what you guys say and it’s ok for you to be upset,” Archambault said in response. “But the real thing is we are here for our youth and here for our future.”

Protest organizers erected tipis on the National Mall to represent the camp. Oceti Sakewin was populated by protesters for months, who at times clashed with law enforcement officers.

Opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline have vowed to keep up protests against pipelines.

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Grant McCool)

Dakota protesters regroup, plot resistance to other pipelines

A man warms up by a fire in Sacred Stone camp, one of the few remaining camps protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., February 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Yang

By Terray Sylvester

CANNON BALL, N.D. (Reuters) – Opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline who were pushed out of their protest camp this week have vowed to keep up efforts to stop the multibillion-dollar project and take the fight to other pipelines as well.

The Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, was cleared by law enforcement on Thursday and almost 50 people, many of them Native Americans and environmental activists, were arrested.

The number of demonstrators had dwindled from the thousands who poured into the camp starting in August to oppose the pipeline that critics say threatens the water resources and sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe has said it intends to fight the pipeline in court.

The 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line, built by Energy Transfer Partners LP, will move crude from the shale oilfields of North Dakota to Illinois en route to the Gulf of Mexico, where many U.S. refineries are located.

Tonya Olsen, 46, an Ihanktonwan Sioux from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who had lived at the camp for 3-1/2 months, said she was saddened by the eviction but proud of the protesters.

She has moved to another nearby camp on Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation land, across the Cannon Ball River.

“A lot of people will take what they’ve learned from this movement and take it to another one,” Olsen said. She may join a protest if one forms against the Keystone XL pipeline near the Lower Brulé Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, she added.

Tom Goldtooth, a protest leader and executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said the demonstrators’ hearts were not defeated.

“The closing of the camp is not the end of a movement or fight, it is a new beginning,” Goldtooth said in a statement on Thursday. “They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started.”

Many hope their fight against the project will spur similar protests targeting pipelines across the United States and Canada, particularly those routed near Native American land.

“The embers are going to be carried all over the place,” said Forest Borie, 34, a protester from Tijuana, Mexico, who spent four months in North Dakota.

“This is going to be a revolutionary year,” he added.

NEXT TARGETS

Borie wants to go next to Canada to help the Unist’ot’en Native American Tribe in their long-running opposition to pipelines in British Columbia.

Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based company constructing the Dakota Access pipeline, is already facing pushback from a diverse base of opposition in Louisiana, where it is planning to expand its Bayou Bridge pipeline.

Other projects mentioned by protesters as possible next stops include the Sabal Trail pipeline being built to transport natural gas from eastern Alabama to central Florida, and Energy Transfer Partners’ Trans-Pecos in West Texas. Sabal Trail is a joint project of Spectra Energy Corp, NextEra Energy Inc and Duke Energy Corp.

Another protest is focused on Plains All American Pipeline’s Diamond Pipeline, which will run from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Valero Energy Corp’s Memphis refinery in Tennessee.

Anthony Gazotti, 47, from Denver, said he will stay on reservation land until he is forced out. Despite construction resuming on the Dakota pipeline, he said the protest was a success because it had raised awareness of pipeline issues nationwide.

“It’s never been about just stopping that pipeline,” he said.

June Sapiel, a 47-year-old member of the Penobscot Tribe in Penobscot, Maine, also rejected the idea that the protesters in North Dakota had failed.

“It’s waking people up,” she said in front of a friend’s yurt where she has been staying. “We’re going to go out there and just keep doing it.”

(Additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago and Liz Hampton in Houston; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Dakota pipeline protest camp nearly empty as holdouts face removal

Buildings burn after being set alight by protesters preparing to evacuate the main opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., February 22, 2017. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Terray Sylvester

CANNON BALL, N.D. (Reuters) – All but a few dozen of the last holdouts from a months-long mass protest against a proposed oil pipeline in North Dakota peacefully vacated their riverside camp as an eviction deadline passed on Wednesday.

“We’ve very firm that the camp is now closed,” Governor Doug Burgum, a Republican, told an evening news conference.

Following Wednesday’s exodus, Burgum estimated there were 25 to 50 protesters left. He said they were still free to leave voluntarily so long as they did not interfere with cleanup crews scheduled to enter the site at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

The encampment has stood since August on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property at the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, about 40 miles south of Bismarck, the state capital.

Protesters calling themselves “water protectors” have rallied there against plans to route the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the reservation, saying the project poses a threat to water resources and sacred tribal sites.

Dubbed the Oceti Sakowin camp, the site became a focal point for U.S. environmental activists and Native Americans expressing indigenous rights, drawing some 5,000 to 10,000 protesters at the height of the movement in early December.

Most have drifted since away, as tribal leaders urged people to leave due to harsh winter weather, while pressing their opposition to the pipeline in court. Roughly 300 demonstrators had remained until this week.

Protesters and police have clashed multiple times since August, with more than 700 arrests tallied.

On Wednesday authorities appeared intent on avoiding clashes, though 10 arrests were made as protesters confronted police in riot gear on a highway outside the camp entrance before the officers retreated around nightfall.

President Donald Trump has pushed for completion of the pipeline since he took office last month, signing an executive order that reversed an Obama administration decision and cleared the way for the $3.8 billion project to proceed.

Two tribes earlier this month lost a legal bid to halt construction. The pipeline is due to be complete and ready for oil by April 1, according to court documents filed Tuesday.

DEADLINE ON THE RIVER

Burgum and the Army Corps of Engineers had set Wednesday’s deadline for protesters to leave, citing hazards posed by impending spring floods along the Cannonball River.

The governor said the handful of demonstrators who remained needed to make way for crews set to expand a cleanup that began weeks ago to remove mounds of garbage, debris, human waste and dozens of abandoned vehicles.

At least three dozen protesters could be seen gathering near the camp entrance as the afternoon eviction deadline passed, and a few dozen others were believed lingering elsewhere at the site. Some vowed to stay put.

“I feel as though now is the time to stand our ground,” said Alethea Phillips, 17, a demonstrator from Michigan who had spent three months at the camp.

Chase Iron Eyes, a Standing Rock Sioux member, said closing the camp would not dampen his determination.

“You can’t arrest a movement. You can’t arrest a spiritual revolution,” he said.

Activists set off fireworks on Wednesday morning, and as freezing rain and snow fell, some demonstrators ceremonially burned tents and other structures at the camp.

State officials said protesters had set about 20 fires, and that two youngsters – a 7-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl – were taken to a Bismarck hospital for burns after two explosions occurred, the governor said.

Authorities have set up an assistance center to provide departing protesters with food, water and medical check-ups, as well as a voucher for one night’s hotel stay and a bus ride home.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester in Cannon Ball, North Dakota and Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Diane Craft and Simon Cameron-Moore)

Showdown looms for protesters near site of Dakota Access pipeline

Tipis are seen on the outskirts of the protest camp. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Terray Sylvester

CANNON BALL, N.D. (Reuters) – Demonstrators near the site of the Dakota Access pipeline braced for a showdown with authorities on Wednesday, as protest leaders said at least some would defy a deadline to abandon the camp they have occupied for months to halt the project.

Native Americans and environmental activists have said the multibillion-dollar pipeline threatens the water resources and sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, but President Donald Trump has quickly pushed for the completion of the pipeline since taking office last month.

Governor Doug Burgum and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers set a deadline of Wednesday afternoon for demonstrators to leave the Oceti Sakowin camp, located on Army Corps land in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

Despite the deadline, some will remain, camp leaders said on Tuesday.

“Everybody plans to be in camp tomorrow up until the 2 o’clock mark. Then people will make their individual decisions about what their level of commitment is,” Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said by telephone. “Some will get arrested.”

Protesters and law enforcement have clashed multiple times and hundreds have been arrested since demonstrations began in August.

The Standing Rock Sioux asked protesters to depart from the site in December as they continued to fight the pipeline in court, but some 300 demonstrators have remained.

Law enforcement officials were urging people to leave the camp ahead of Wednesday’s deadline and remove anything that could be damaged during cleanup efforts.

“We really would like them (protesters) to get the culturally sensitive items out so when they bulldoze and clean out the camp they aren’t dealing with any of those things,” said Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

Just days after taking office in January, Trump, a Republican, signed an executive order clearing the way for the $3.8 billion pipeline to proceed.

A judge denied a request earlier this month by two tribes seeking to halt construction, which resumed. The tribes are seeking an injunction to order the Army Corps to withdraw the easement.

Burgum, a Republican, has warned that spring floods pose a threat to the remaining protesters as well as the waters of the Missouri River.

Over 200 dumpsters of debris has been removed from the site since cleanup efforts began last month, said Mike Nowatzki, a spokesman for the governor.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester in Cannon Ball, North Dakota and Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Tom Brown)

Governor orders evacuation of Dakota pipeline protest camp

police vehicles sit on outskirts of protest camp in North Dakota

(Reuters) – The governor of North Dakota ordered protesters on Wednesday to evacuate a demonstration camp near the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline in the latest move to clear the area that has served as a base for opposition to the multibillion dollar project.

Republican Doug Burgum ordered demonstrators to leave the camp located on land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by Feb. 22, citing safety concerns that have arisen due to accelerated snowmelt and rising water levels of the nearby Cannonball River.

Burgum also said in his executive order that the camp poses an environmental danger to the surrounding area. His order reaffirms a Feb. 22 deadline set by the Army Corps for the demonstrators to clean up and leave.

Environmentalists and Native Americans who have opposed the pipeline, saying it threatens water resources and sacred sites, have faced a series of set-backs since President Donald Trump took office in January.

A federal judge on Monday denied a request by Native American tribes seeking to halt construction of the final link of the $3.8 billion pipeline after the Corps of Engineers granted a final easement to Energy Transfer Partners LP last week.

(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in CHICAGO and Brendan O’Brien in MILWAUKEE; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Native tribes seek judgment against Army Corps over Dakota Access

NO trespassing sign

(Reuters) – The Native American tribes looking to stop the Dakota Access pipeline asked a judge to find that the Army Corps violated federal regulations when it recently granted the last permit needed for the project to be finished, according to a Tuesday court filing.

In a filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, Jan Hasselman, a lawyer with Earthjustice who represents the tribes, said the court should rule, in a partial summary judgment, that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act by issuing the final permit.

That easement will allow the Dakota Access pipeline to be completed by tunneling under Lake Oahe, a reservoir that forms part of the Missouri River. It comes after Judge James Boasberg on Monday denied the request by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux for a temporary restraining order stopping the last stretch of construction.

Energy Transfer Partners is building the 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line, which will run from North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The last permit was denied in December and later subject to further environmental review, by the outgoing Obama administration.

After taking office last month, President Donald Trump ordered that steps be taken to expedite the permit. The Army Corps then elected not to undergo the additional environmental review and issued the permit last week.

The tribes’ legal options are narrowing, according to Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux.

The case is 1:16-cv-1534-JEB, U.S. District Court of Washington, D.C.

(Reporting by David Gaffen; Editing by Leslie Adler)