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US Court rules in favour of tribes over oil-spill response plan for Dakota Access Pipeline

05 December 2017

On December 4, a federal judge ordered pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners LP to coordinate with local tribes and the Army Corps of Engineers to create an oil-spill response plan for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP) by next April. The 1,170-mile (1,900-km) North Dakota-to-Illinois pipeline has been in operation since June.

The DAP under construction. Image - Shutterstock
The DAP under construction. Image - Shutterstock

US District Judge James Boasberg said a response plan and additional pipeline monitoring were warranted while the Corps determines the pipeline's impact on the tribes, the judge said in his ruling. He cited in part the spill of 210,000 gallons of oil from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota last month.

Boasberg also asked the operator for other interim measures, including bi-monthly reports on safety conditions at the Lake Oahe pipeline crossing, the centre of months of anti-pipeline protests last year. The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes draw drinking water from the lake.

“While we think that the pipeline should have been shut down, we are gratified that the federal court has put measures in place to reduce risks and provide some independent oversight to reduce the risk of a spill from this project,” said Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith.

The $3.8 billion DAP began moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois in June. Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners maintains the pipeline is safe, and the company and the Corps had argued that tribal requests for additional protections at Lake Oahe were unnecessary or unwarranted.

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