The Dakota Access Pipeline appears poised to go forward, as planned, beneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota, despite late action following the election to slow it down.
According to Reuters, the Army Corps of Engineers said in a court filing Tuesday it plans to give Energy Transfer Partners the permission it needs (referred to as an "easement") to build the pipeline on federally-owned land beneath the lake. The lake is part of the Missouri River, which is the main source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The move is a direct reversal of the Army's decision in December (while still under President Barack Obama) to not grant those easements, saying at the time alternate routes needed to be explored.
But the incoming administration pretty quickly signaled it would look to get the Dakota Access Pipeline (and Keystone XL pipeline) back on track. Days after President Donald Trump took office, he signed executive orders pushing them ahead – though with a couple strings attached, including a renegotiation of terms, as well as a commitment to use only U.S.-produced steel.
The pipeline would bring crude oil 1,100 miles from the Bakken oil fields to Illinois, but has to cross about 1,094 feet of federal land at Lake Oahe, Energy Transfer Partners says.
CNBC reports the Corps also said it won't prepare an official Environmental Impact Statement, as was earlier planned. Standing Rock just a few days ago said it was prepared to put up a "legal challenge" if that happened.
The Mpls No DAPL group is planning a "bite back emergency action" demonstration Thursday in St. Paul, starting at noon.
Lake Oahe is part of the Missouri River, which is the main source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. And while the pipeline doesn't go on reservation land, it gets within about a half mile of the border.
Protesters have argued the Dakota Access Pipeline's current route would threaten their drinking water, and could damage sacred lands.
And as the New Yorker explained in September, another proposed route for the Dakota Access Pipeline would have seen it cross the Missouri River near Bismarck – but state officials were worried a spill could destroy the state's drinking water, so opted for the current route under Lake Oahe.
Energy Transfer Partners argues the new pipeline will be anywhere from 95 to 115 feet below the bottom of the lake – significantly deeper than other, non-DAPL pipelines that already exist there. One non-DAPL pipeline, the Northern Border Pipeline, carries natural gas, The Hill reported. Electricity lines are also down there.
The company also says the pipeline will be built in one of the safest, most technologically advanced ways possible. It points out the pipeline will replace the 500-plus rail cars and/or 250-plus trucks needed currently to transport the crude oil every day – which are less safe methods than transporting via pipeline.
Here's one look at the figures, which show spills have been more common on the rails. But pipelines have generally lost more oil when they leak.