The Dakota Access Pipeline Construction Delay Has Widespread Ramifications

December 06, 2016 10:22 PM

The Dakota Access Pipeline is controversial because of its proximity to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. 

There are concerns involving tribal rights, culture, the environment and basic infrastructure.   


The disputed section of the project is a small, but vital one. And, it's the only remaining chunk of the pipeline not complete.

The Army Corps of Engineers ruling to defer an easement doesn't end the construction, it simply delays it. That's according to Alexandra Klass, an environmental law expert at the University of Minnesota.

"It's a temporary win because even if you look at the decision they don't feel like they have enough information on the environmental impact and alternate routes to grant an easement," said Klass.

Which means, months more of fact-finding, given the project is being built under the Missouri River Reservoir.  

It's the source of drinking water for 8,000 tribal members.  

"The federal law gives the general public and tribes in particular operating as a sovereign nation, the right to participate in projects and government decisions that affect them so critically," said Kevin Lee with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

The Army Corps reports directly to the President.  

With the upcoming transfer of power, that means there will be a new head of the federal agency.  

And that leader could overturn the current decision and grant the easement, which would likely be challenged in court.  

Or, Congress could pass a bill that would exempt the pipeline from further environmental review.  

Either way, there are far-reaching policy and energy ramifications. 

"Where do we want to go as a country in terms of building infrastructure, it's very expensive...should we be investing a lot of time, money and resources in new fossil fuels infrastructure or should we be investing that money in new technology for renewable energy resources," said Klass.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has identified 18,000 locations where pipelines, carrying hazardous liquids, intersect with bodies of water. 


Beth McDonough

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