After a lengthy legal battle that stretched on for years, a federal court has finally sided with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and ordered a full environmental review for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The court ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted the permits in 2016. The ruling also stated that there were concerns about oil spills and the potential damage that could be caused to the environment, which were overlooked in the initial assessment.
This current ruling is not the end of the tribe’s struggle against this pipeline. In fact, oil is still flowing through the pipeline. This merely requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental review, something that should have happened before construction began anyway. For some reason, the agency rushed to approve permits for Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of DAPL, without a proper review of the land.
In the meantime, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg will hold a hearing next month, where each side will argue their case on whether or not oil should be able to flow through the pipeline while the review is being conducted.
In his ruling, Judge Boasberg stated that, “The many commenters in this case pointed to serious gaps in crucial parts of the Corps’ analysis – to name a few, that the pipeline’s leak-detection system was unlikely to work, that it was not designed to catch slow spills, that the operator’s serious history of incidents had not been taken into account, that that the worst-case scenario used by the Corps was potentially only a fraction of what a realistic figure would be – and the Corps was not able to fill any of [the gaps in the analysis].”
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith called the verdict a “significant legal win” for the tribe.
“After years of commitment to defending our water and earth, we welcome this news of a significant legal win. It’s humbling to see how actions we took four years ago to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet. Perhaps in the wake of this court ruling the federal government will begin to catch on, too, starting by actually listening to us when we voice our concerns,” Faith said.
According to a previous report from Greenpeace, ETP was involved with numerous oil spills that went unnoticed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The report indicated that the company and its subsidiaries were responsible for 527 spills from 2002-2017, at least 67 of which contaminated water resources. Testimony from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe described how workers with ETP destroyed at least 380 sacred and cultural sites along the DAPL route. The company also hired private security firms like TigerSwan, who used excessive force and military tactics against protestors, all while operating without a license to operate in the state of North Dakota.