U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week delivered a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe by ruling that DAPL is operating illegally.
The three-judge panel upheld a lower court’s ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted an easement for DAPL to cross a federal reservoir along the Missouri River, less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
The court ordered a full environmental impact statement examining the threats posed by the oil pipeline.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement that “we are pleased that the D.C. Circuit affirmed the necessity of a full environmental review, and we look forward to showing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers why this pipeline is too dangerous to operate.”
Despite mandating the review, the panel did not order DAPL to stop operating. Jan Hasselman, the EarthJustice attorney representing Standing Rock, said after the ruling that “this pipeline is now operating illegally.”
“The appeals court put the ball squarely in the court of the Biden administration to take action,” Hasselman said. “And I mean shutting the pipeline down until this environmental review is completed.”
Five lawmakers are now backing that call: Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) as well as Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
As DeSmog noted Thursday, DAPL is facing more than just legal trouble: Westchester Fire Insurance Co. notified pipeline owner Energy Transfer in early January that it had lost a $250,000 “bond that Iowa, one of the four states it passes through, required the pipeline to maintain.”
The 1,172-mile underground pipeline, which began operating in June 2017, transports 570,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken formation in North Dakota, through South Dakota and Iowa, to a terminal in Illinois.
Attorney Carolyn Raffensperger, director of the Science and Health Network, told DeSmog it could be tricky for Energy Transfer to replace the lost insurance coverage, especially given the court-ordered review.
“It will be difficult because the bond holder will require the pipeline to comply with all legal requirements,” Raffensperger said. “If it is operating without a permit, any spill would be a big, big legal problem.”