Judge orders the Dakota Access Pipeline temporarily shut down

A federal judge has ordered that the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been operating for the past three years, be shut down while an expanded environmental review takes place. The same judge ordered the new review in March and said at that time that he would consider whether or not to shut down the pipeline in the interim.

In March, Judge Boasberg, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, ordered the federal government to conduct a sweeping new environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The ruling found that the pipeline’s “effects on the quality of the human environment are likely to be highly controversial,” and that the federal government had not done enough to study the risks of a major spill, or whether the pipeline’s leak detection system was adequate.

He also ordered both the tribe and the federal government to submit briefs on whether the pipeline should continue operating during the new environmental review. The Earthjustice lawyer, Mr. Hasselman, said at the time that the tribe would ask for the pipeline to be shut down until the review was completed. Monday’s ruling granted that request.

Earthjustice, the environmental group that is representing the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in court, said today’s decision means the pipeline will remain closed for several years: “The shutdown will remain in place pending completion of a full environmental review, which normally takes several years, and the issuance of new permits. It may be up to a new administration to make final permitting decisions.”

Meanwhile, the company that operates the pipeline said it plans to appeal the decision:

We believe that the ruling issued this morning from Judge Boasberg is not supported by the law or the facts of the case. Furthermore, we believe that Judge Boasberg has exceeded his authority in ordering the shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been safely operating for more than three years. We will be immediately pursuing all available legal and administrative processes and are confident that once the law and full record are fully considered Dakota Access Pipeline will not be shut down and that oil will continue to flow.

We intend to immediately file a motion to stay this decision and if not granted, to pursue a stay and expedited appeal with the Court of Appeals. We also believe that the Army Corps of Engineers has the ultimate jurisdiction over this matter, pursuant to its regulations governing Corps property…

This pipeline is the safest, most environmentally responsible method for moving North Dakota’s crude oil to refining markets around the country. Shutting down this critical piece of infrastructure would throw our country’s crude supply system out of balance, negatively impact several significant industries, inflict more damage on an already struggling economy, and jeopardize our national security.

We’ll have to wait and see whether a stay or an appeal will reverse this decision, but for now it appears the Standing Rock Sioux have won a big victory in court that could result in this pipeline being shut down permanently.

In closing, here’s President of the North Dakota Petroleum Council Ron Ness, expressing his shock at today’s rulling: