Judge Orders Corps Work on Pipeline

OMAHA (DTN) -- With the loss of a federal permit to operate the Dakota Access pipeline, a federal judge on Monday ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to come up with a resolution by the end of August.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Corps of Engineers to provide a status report to the court by Aug. 31, detailing steps taken by the Corps to resolve concerns with the pipeline.

"In the interim, the parties shall discuss in good faith mitigation measures that could lessen the likelihood and severity of any oil leak in or around Lake Oahe," the order said.

The Corps is considering several options for the pipeline, while owner Energy Transfer LP is appealing a recent decision to vacate the permit.

A federal appeals court ruled on Aug. 5 that a district court overstepped when it ordered the pipeline closed and emptied of oil. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the pipeline to remain open pending further court proceedings.

A district court this summer ordered the pipeline closed as a result of permitting issues with the construction of the line dating back to 2017. On July 14, the appeals court ruled the line could remain open pending an appeal.

In addition, the appeals court denied a motion to stay the district court's order to vacate the Mineral Leasing Act easement, authorizing the DAPL to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe.

Several agriculture groups said in briefs filed with the appeals court at the end of July that the permanent shutdown of the pipeline would have devastating consequences for farmers.

The North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Grain Dealers Association, North Dakota Grain Growers Association, South Dakota Corn Growers Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation and South Dakota Soybean Association asked the court to stay the district court ruling.

The groups are concerned closing the pipeline could drastically increase the costs of transporting commodities. According to the groups, railroads transport 72% to 82% of North Dakota's crop output.

From April 2016 to February 2017, Native American and other groups protested the construction of the pipeline running from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota and crossing the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to southern Illinois.

Part of the pipeline runs near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Protests centered on concerns about the pipeline's effect on water supplies used for irrigation, drinking water and threats to ancient burial grounds.

The appeals court ruled the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated environmental law in 2017 when it allowed the pipeline owner, Energy Transfer, to build beneath South Dakota Lake Oahe.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN

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