New environmental study on Dakota Access Pipeline officially announced by Army

A new environmental study of the final mile of the Dakota Access Pipeline was officially announced by the Army Wednesday. The study could take up to two years to complete. Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline’s developer, has asked a judge to block it and a hearing to consider the request is scheduled for later today. From the Associated Press:

The Army published a notice Wednesday of its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement on the Lake Oahe crossing. Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners won’t be able to lay pipe under the reservoir while the study is ongoing — it is currently blocked from doing so anyway. A study could take up to two years, according to the Energy Department.

ETP asked U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Tuesday to block the study; he scheduled a hearing for Wednesday afternoon in Washington, D.C…

The stretch under Lake Oahe is the last big chunk of construction for the 1,200-mile pipeline. ETP has said in court documents there is already oil in a portion of the pipeline leading up to the lake in anticipation of finishing the project. But the Corps wants to look at alternate routes, the potential for a pipeline leak and tribal treaty rights in the wake of opposition by Standing Rock.

All but about one mile of the $4 billion pipeline has been completed. In December, the Army Corps of Engineers recommended that a final easement be granted allowing construction of the last stretch under Lake Oahe but that recommendation was overruled by Obama political appointee Jo-Ellen Darcy. Protesters celebrated the decision as a victory since it promised a long delay as a new environmental study, including a new round of public comment, was completed.

Meanwhile, three protesters were arrested yesterday when they cut through a fence and entered private property where drilling for the final portion of the pipeline will take place. From UPI:

Officials said about 200 people moved from the main protest camp, along the frozen Cannonball River, and headed north on the Missouri River on Monday at about 3:30 p.m. The protesters stopped and cut a fence long the Missouri River about 700 feet away from the DAPL’s drill pad, which is the starting point for the pipeline to go under Lake Oahe…

Police said three people were arrested where the Cannonball River and Missouri River meet and charged with criminal trespass, inciting a riot and resisting arrests.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department published video of the protesters cutting a fence and scuffling with the National Guard: