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)

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 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)

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)

Judge denies tribes’ request to block final link in Dakota pipeline

Police vehicles idle on the outskirts of the opposition camp against the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. federal judge denied a request by Native American tribes seeking a halt to construction of the final link in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Monday, the controversial project that has sparked months of protests from tribal activists seeking to halt the 1,170-mile line.

Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., at a hearing, rejected the request from the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who had argued that the project will prevent them from practicing religious ceremonies at a lake they say is surrounded by sacred ground.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week granted a final easement to Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company building the $3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), after President Donald Trump issued an order to advance the pipeline days after he took office in January.

Lawyers for the Cheyenne River Sioux and the Standing Rock Sioux wanted Judge Boasberg to block construction with a temporary restraining order.

“We are contending that the waters of Lake Oahe are sacred to Cheyenne River and all of its members, and that the very presence of a pipeline, not only construction but possible oil flow through that pipeline, would obstruct the free exercise of our religious practices,” Matthew Vogel, a legislative associate for the Cheyenne River Sioux, told reporters in a conference call ahead of the hearing.

The company only needs to build a final 1,100-foot (335 meter) connection in North Dakota under Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri River system, to complete the pipeline.

The line is set to run from oilfields in the Northern Plains of North Dakota to the Midwest, and then to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico, could be operating by early May.

Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Tribe, said in the call that the pipeline would also cause economic harm to Native Americans.

The tribes could be facing a difficult task in convincing Boasberg to grant the restraining order. Last September, he rejected a broad request by Native Americans to block the project. That ruling was superseded by the Obama Administration, which delayed the line, seeking more environmental review.

Thousands of tribe members and environmental activists have protested the pipeline setting up camps last year on Army Corps land in the North Dakota plains. In December, the Obama Administration denied ETP’s last needed permit, but with Trump’s stated support of the pipeline, that victory was short-lived for the Standing Rock Sioux.

The Army Corps has said it will close remaining camps on federal lands along the Cannonball River in North Dakota after Feb. 22.

Cleanup efforts continued in the main protest camp located on federal land over the weekend. Only a few hundred protesters remain, and crews have been removing tipis and yurts. The Standing Rock tribe has been asking protesters to leave.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; additional reporting by Terray Sylvester in Cannon Ball, North Dakota; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Construction resumes on Dakota pipeline despite tribe’s challenge

police vehicles monitoring construction of pipeline

By Terray Sylvester and Liz Hampton

CANNON BALL, N.D./HOUSTON (Reuters) – The company building an oil pipeline that has fueled sustained public protests said on Thursday it has started drilling under a North Dakota lake despite a last-ditch legal challenge from a Native American tribe leading the opposition.

Energy Transfer Partners LP <ETP.N> is building the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to move crude from the Northern Plains to the Midwest and then on to the Gulf of Mexico, now saying it could be operational by early May.

The project had been put on hold under the administration of former Democratic President Barack Obama, but new President Donald Trump, a Republican, helped put it back on track.

The federal government this week cleared way for the project to resume, leading the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to file a court challenge on Thursday seeking a temporary restraining order to halt construction and drilling for the pipeline.

The court set oral arguments on the legal challenge for Monday.

Legal experts say the tribe faces long odds in convincing any court to halt construction,

Energy Transfer Partners needs only to cross beneath Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri River system, to connect a final 1,100-foot (335 meter) gap in the 1,170-mile (1,885 km) pipeline, which will move oil from the Bakken shale formation to a terminus in Patoka, Illinois.

From there the oil would flow to another pipeline connecting south-central Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico and that region’s numerous oil refineries.

Native American tribes and climate activists have vowed to fight the pipeline, fearing it will desecrate sacred sites and endanger a source of the country’s largest drinking water reservoir.

“This administration (Trump’s) has expressed utter and complete disregard for not only our treaty and water rights, but the environment as a whole,” the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said on Thursday in a statement on its website.

Supporters say the pipeline will be safer than transporting oil by rail or road, and industry leaders have praised the project for creating high-paying jobs

With work on the final tranche now under way, Energy Transfer Partners expects the Dakota Access Pipeline to begin operations in approximately 83 days, according to a company spokeswoman.

“We have started to drill to go beneath Lake Oahe and expect to be completed in 60 days with another 23 days to fill the line to Patoka,” spokeswoman Vicki Granado said in an email.

She declined to specify when drilling began except that it was after the company received federal permission on Wednesday.

Public opposition drew thousands of people to the North Dakota plains last year including high-profile political and celebrity supporters. Large protest camps popped up near the site, leading to several violent clashes and some 700 arrests.

A few hardy protesters have remained camped out near the lake, braving sub-freezing temperatures.

Among them is Frank Archambault, 45, who has lived in the camp since August when he left his home on the Standing Rock reservation.

“It angers me. It angers me because people are pushing other people around, breaking laws,” Archambault said. “They’re trying to kill us off by contaminating the water. We’ve had enough.”

Ptery Light, 55, of Portland, Oregon, who has lived in the main camp since Oct. 31, said he was not giving up hope.

“I just pray that there’s no oil spill,” Light said. “This is purely about greed.”

For now, their hopes are pinned on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe winning a legal victory.

To obtain the temporary restraining order, the tribe must convince the judge there will be immediate harm suffered and prove it has a strong overall case should its lawsuit to halt the project result in a full trial.

The U.S. district judge in the case, James Boasberg, previously rejected the tribe’s request to block the project, ruling in September that the Army Corps of Engineers likely complied with the law in permitting the pipeline to go forward.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis in New York)

North Dakota tribe says running out of options to stop pipeline

Protesters raise a banner regarding Dakota Access Pipeline

By Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester

HOUSTON/CANNON BALL, N.D. (Reuters) – The leader of a Native American tribe attempting to block the Dakota Access oil pipeline said on Wednesday the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe may have exhausted legal options to stop the project after the company building it won federal permission to tunnel under the Missouri River.

Legal experts agreed the tribe faces long odds in convincing any court to halt the $3.8 billion project led by Energy Transfer Partners LP, which could now begin operation as soon as June.

The U.S. Army said on Wednesday it had granted the final permit for the pipeline after an order from President Donald Trump to expedite the project. The army owns the land through its Corps of Engineers.

“We’re running out of options, but that doesn’t mean that it’s over,” David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, told Reuters in a telephone interview. “We’re still going to continue to look at all legal options available to us.”

Native American tribes and climate activists have vowed to fight the pipeline, fearing it will desecrate sacred sites and endanger drinking water. Supporters say the pipeline is safer than rail or trucks to transport the oil.

The 1,170-mile (1,885-km) line 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.

Public opposition has drawn thousands of people to the North Dakota plains, including high-profile political and celebrity supporters. Large protest camps popped up near the site, leading to several violent clashes and some 600 arrests.

The opposition sensed victory last year when the administration of President Barack Obama, a Democrat, delayed completion of the pipeline pending a review of tribal concerns and in December ordered an environmental study.

But those fortunes were reversed after Trump, a Republican, took office on Jan. 20. Trump issued an order on Jan. 24 to expedite both the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and to revive another multibillion-dollar oil artery, Keystone XL. The Obama administration had blocked that project in 2015.

On Wednesday, some 350 people converged in lower Manhattan, hoisting signs such as “Water is Life,” “Dump Trump” and “Respect Native Sovereignty.”

“This isn’t just a Native American problem, this isn’t just an issue over race, this goes way beyond that,” said Matene Strikefirst, who said he is a member of the tribe of Ojibwe and Dakota. “We need to get over our dependence on fossil fuels; we need to ensure drinking water for everyone.”

Another 100 gathered near the White House, denouncing

Trump.

“We know there is going to be bloodshed,” said Eryn Wise, spokeswoman for the International Indigenous Youth Council.

“This is cultural genocide,” said Linda Black Elk, a resident of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

BIG HURDLE

In a court filing on Tuesday, the Army said it would allow the final section of the DAPL to tunnel under Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri River system. The permit was the last bureaucratic hurdle to the pipeline’s completion.

The tribe said on Wednesday it would attempt to use a “legal battle and temporary restraining order” to shut down pipeline operations.

But Wayne D’Angelo, an energy and environmental lawyer with Kelley Drye & Warren in Washington, said he believed the Trump administration was on “pretty solid legal ground.”

The tribe would have to prove a very difficult standard: that approval for the pipeline was “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion or inconsistent with the record before the agency,” D’Angelo said.

The protest camps dwindled after the Obama administration ordered the environmental review in December as the tribe urged people to leave due to concerns about trash buildup in a flood plain.

But a few holdouts have remained, including some who braved temperatures of minus 9 Fahrenheit (minus 23 C) on Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Brendan Pierson and Tina Bellon in New York and Tom Ramstack in Washington; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Leslie Adler)

Controversial Dakota pipeline to go ahead after Army approval

north dakota national guard near dakota access pipeline

By Valerie Volcovici and Ernest Scheyder

WASHINGTON/HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Army will grant the final permit for the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline after an order from President Donald Trump to expedite the project despite opposition from Native American tribes and climate activists.

In a court filing on Tuesday, the Army said that it would allow the final section of the line to tunnel under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri River system. This could enable the $3.8 billion pipeline to begin operation as soon as June.

Energy Transfer Partners <ETP.N> is building the 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line to help 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.

Protests against the project last year drew drew thousands of people to the North Dakota plains including Native American tribes and environmental activists, and protest camps sprung up. The movement attracted high-profile political and celebrity supporters.

The permit was the last bureaucratic hurdle to the pipeline’s completion, and Tuesday’s decision drew praise from supporters of the project and outrage from activists, including promises of a legal challenge from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

“It’s great to see this new administration following through on their promises and letting projects go forward to the benefit of American consumers and workers,” said John Stoody, spokesman for the Association of Oil Pipe Lines.

The Standing Rock Sioux, which contends the pipeline would desecrate sacred sites and potentially pollute its water source,

vowed to shut pipeline operations down if construction is completed, without elaborating how it would do so. The tribe called on its supporters to protest in Washington on March 10 rather than return to North Dakota.

“As Native peoples, we have been knocked down again, but we will get back up,” the tribe said in the statement. “We will rise above the greed and corruption that has plagued our peoples since first contact. We call on the Native Nations of the United States to stand together, unite and fight back.”

Former President Barack Obama’s administration last year delayed completion of the pipeline pending a review of tribal concerns and in December ordered an environmental study.

Less than two weeks after Trump ordered a review of the permit request, the Army said in a filing in District Court in Washington D.C. it would cancel that study. The final permit, known as an easement, could come in as little as a day, according to the filing.

There was no need for the environmental study as there was already enough information on the potential impact of the pipeline to grant the permit, Robert Speer, acting secretary of the U.S. Army, said in a statement.

Trump issued an order on Jan. 24 to expedite both the Dakota Access Pipeline and to revive another controversial multibillion dollar oil artery: Keystone XL. Obama’s administration blocked that project in 2015.

At the Dakota Access construction site, law enforcement and protesters clashed violently on several occasions throughout the fall. More than 600 people were arrested, and police were criticized for using water cannons in 25-degree Fahrenheit (minus 4-degree Celsius) weather against activists in late November.

“The granting of an easement, without any environmental review or tribal consultation, is not the end of this fight,” said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the primary groups protesting the line.

“It is the new beginning. Expect mass resistance far beyond what Trump has seen so far.”

LEGAL CHALLENGE TOUGH

Any legal challenge is likely to be a difficult one for pipeline opponents as presidential authority to grant such permits is generally accepted in the courts. The tribe said in a statement the decision “wrongfully terminated” environmental study of the project.

Deborah Sivas, professor of environmental law at Stanford and director of Stanford’s Environmental Law Clinic, said a challenge by the tribe would likely rely on the reasons the Army Corps itself gave for why more review was needed in December.

“The tribe will probably argue that an abrupt reversal without a sufficient explanation for why the additional analysis is not necessary is arbitrary and should, therefore, be set aside,” she said in an email.

Supporters say the pipeline is safer than rail or trucks to transport the oil.

Shares of Energy Transfer Partners finished up 20 cents at $39.20, reversing earlier losses on the news.

(Additional reporting by Liz Hampton in HOUSTON and Brendan Pierson in New York; Writing by David Gaffen and Simon Webb; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

U.S. could grant final permit for Dakota pipeline as soon as Friday: government lawyer

police barricade north of Dakota Access Pipeline

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Army secretary could make a decision on the final permit needed to complete the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline as soon as Friday, the government’s lawyer told a Washington, D.C., court on Monday.

The Army Corp of Engineers told the court it has submitted its recommendation to Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, on whether it needs to complete a full environmental review before it can grant the final permit allowing work to start on a contested tunnel under a lake. The review was requested in December by former President Barack Obama.

Opponents argue that letting the pipeline cross under Lake Oahe, a reservoir that is the water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, would damage sacred lands and could leak oil into the tribe’s water supply.

Proponents believe the pipeline is necessary to transport U.S. oil safely and that it would create jobs.

Jan Hasselman, an attorney with Earthjustice, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux, said the tribe will challenge the U.S. government in court if the Army grants the easement. The tribe, along with other Native American groups, environmentalists and other activists, have opposed the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline led by Energy Transfer Partners LP <ETP.N>.

He said it is unclear whether construction could begin while the decision is challenged or whether the court will grant an injunction blocking the work.

“Our position is the tribe’s treaty rights and the law require the full (Environmental Impact Study) process that the government initiated in December. Issuing the easement without that process will be a serious violation of the law,” Hasselman told Reuters.

A spokesman for the Army was not immediately available to comment. Energy Transfer Partners declined to comment on the legal proceedings.

At the hearing at the D.C. Circuit Court on Monday, lawyers for ETP said the pipeline would become fully operational around 90 days after construction begins. If the easement is granted, oil can start crossing under the lake, a reservoir that is part of the Missouri River, as soon as 60 days after construction starts.

(Additional reporting by Liz Hampton in Houston; Editing by Dan Grebler)