Dakota Access Pipeline developer asks court to mandate final easement

Energy Transfer Partners, the developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline, is asking a court to order the government to grant a final easement it needs to complete the pipeline.

The nearly 1,200 mile long pipeline is nearly complete except for a mile-long section that would pass under the Missouri river. The company argues the permit granted back in July should necessarily include the easement. From the Hill:

Judge James Boasberg of the District Court for the District of Columbia set a briefing schedule at a Friday hearing in Washington, D.C., for Energy Transfer’s claim that granting the easement is a “ministerial” action, and is mandated now that the company has the related permit.

“The final decision on the right-of-way was made on July 25,” David Debold, the attorney representing Dakota Access, told Boasberg at the Friday hearing.

Debold said Dakota Access is losing nearly $20 million every week that the Army Corps delays its decision on the easement. He requested “expedited” consideration of the motion, which Dakota Access first formally made in November.

Protesters celebrated Sunday when the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not grant the easement and instead would begin a new environmental survey which could take 6 months to a year to complete. NBC reported Wednesday that the Corps of Engineers actually recommended the easement be granted but an Obama political appointee, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, blocked it.

The result of the obviously political decision has been confusion. The tribal chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux asked protesters to go home after a severe blizzard forced people to evacuate the camp Monday and find shelter at a nearby casino. But activist leader Chase Iron Eyes has said the decision Sunday was not a final victory and encouraged people to stay until the pipeline project is removed from the ground. In this video clip he suggests protesters should be willing to “sacrifice” jail or even death to oppose the project:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlLEOUsD_aU

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the Trump administration is going to reverse the decision on the easement soon after it takes office. KCRG reports:

“Celebrate while you can, I suppose. This is clearly not over,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND).

Rep. Cramer recently met with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss the pipeline and says the decision will likely be reversed.

“I think we can get this handled rather quickly in a Trump administration,” Cramer said. “He can get that easement in the hands of the companies so they can start construction sometime in middle to early early mid 2017.”

North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who also recently met with Trump, says she expects an easement to be issued relatively soon. The Standing Rock Sioux and environmentalists will be able to challenge that decision in court so the issue could drag on for a few more months.