A federal judge rejected a request from the operator of the Dakota Access oil pipeline to halt an order to shut down the pipeline during a lengthy environmental review.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the company’s request Thursday, effectively sending the case to a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit.
Judge Boasberg on Monday ordered the pipeline shut down by Aug. 5 for an additional environmental assessment more than three years after it began pumping oil. The move was a victory for the Standing Rock Sioux and a blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to weaken U.S. public health and environmental protections his administration views as obstacles to businesses.
In arguing against the closure, pipeline operator Energy Transfer estimated it would take three months to empty the pipe of oil and complete steps to preserve it for future use, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
The Texas-based company says that to keep the line from corroding without the flow of oil, it must be filled with an inert gas, such as nitrogen.
Energy Transfer’s vice-president of crude and liquid operations, Todd Stamm, wrote in a court filing that while the equipment that causes oil to flow through the line could be shut off by the judge’s deadline, “it is not physically possible to `empty it of oil’ in the thirty days provided by the order.”
The line must undergo a “purge-and-fill process” that involves draining segments one at a time while the pipeline is operating to replace the oil with nitrogen, Mr. Stamm wrote.
Energy Transfer estimated it would cost US$24-million to empty the oil and take steps to preserve the pipe. The company says that to maintain the line, it would spend an additional US$67.5-million each year it remains inoperable.
The pipeline holds about five million barrels of oil when full.
It was the subject of months of protests in 2016 and 2017, sometimes violent, during its construction near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. The tribe took legal action against the pipeline even after it began carrying oil from North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa and to a shipping point in Illinois in June, 2017.
The US$3.8-billion, 1,886-kilometre pipeline crosses beneath the Missouri River, just north of the reservation. The tribe draws its water from the river and has concerns about pollution. The company maintains the line is safe.
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