AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
Last week’s decision by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg not to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was definitely good news for North Dakota oil producers and the state, in addition to ensuring the nation’s energy independence.
During the hearing in Washington, D.C., on April 9, the Biden administration declined to intervene in the case and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had time to complete an Environmental Impact Statement.
But the future of the pipeline is still very much in limbo as Judge Boasberg could still decide to not allow DAPL to operate. He had ordered an immediate shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline last summer citing that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it approved the pipeline and said that the federal easement to cross the Missouri River was invalid. But that ruling was overturned by a federal appellate court.
To say that the Dakota Access Pipeline is critical to the state’s oil industry would be an understatement. The pipeline, which has been in service since 2017 and is the largest pipeline serving the Bakken region, moves 570,000 barrels of crude oil each day to a hub in Illinois. Without the pipeline being able to cross the Missouri River, the owners of the pipeline would be forced to use more expensive truck or rail options to move the oil.
Last week’s decision by the Corps of Engineers to ask for more time to study the pipeline was welcome news to North Dakota’s elected officials and its congressional delegation, as well as the MHA Nation, who has argued that the pipeline is critical to the economies of the state and the MHA Nation.
“Shutting down this pipeline would put the environment and public safety at greater risk by forcing oil transportation to trucks and rail and would have a devastating effect on our state’s and MHA Nation’s economy, sapping hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from producers, mineral owners, schools and state, tribal and local governments,” stated North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. “It also would send a dangerous signal to the capital formation needed to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure by demonstrating that legally permitted and completed essential infrastructure can be shut down after years of safe operation. This state-of-the-art pipeline is critical to North Dakota’s energy industry and our nation’s energy independence and security, and the Corps should be allowed to complete its consultation without court intervention.”
Burgum is absolutely correct on all counts. The pipeline’s crossing of the Missouri River was permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and to now have that permit thrown out years after it went into operation sends a horrible message to any company looking at investing billions of dollars in infrastructure in similar projects. And he is also right when he says that the financial impacts the closing of this pipeline would have on the state, the MHA Nation, as well as all of the counties, cities, schools and private mineral owners in North Dakota would be devastating.
North Dakota and the nation needs the Dakota Access Pipeline to remain fully operational today and into the future.
Let’s hope that the Biden administration recognizes the importance that this pipeline plays in maintaining this country’s energy independence.