DAPL protest file photo

Three Standing Rock youth ride on horseback at the Oceti Sakowin camp during the Dakota Access protests in this file 2016 photo. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has decided to extend its timeframe for completing a court-ordered environmental study on the Dakota Access pipeline, according to information posted on the federal agency’s Dakota Access project page.

According to court records, the Corps had been asked by tribes to extend the schedule by six months, and the federal agency said then it was considering granting the request. The decision will put publication of the Dakota Access pipeline’s final EIS somewhere around September of next year.

The outcome of the study will be a deciding factor in whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reissues the easement for the Lake Oahe crossing, which was revoked last year.

Judge James Boasberg ruled that due to its controversial nature, NEPA required the Corps to complete the longer Environmental Impact Statement instead of the shorter Environmental Assessment when evaluating the pipeline’s easement to cross 90 feet below Lake Oahe.

Boasberg had then ordered the pipeline to shut down and empty of oil while the study proceeded, but an appeals court decided the injunction should have taken into account several additional factors, including economic harm. They sent it back to the lower court for that analysis.

During that hearing, the Corps told the courts that the pipeline could continue to operate while the study is conducted and Boasberg ultimately ruled that the tribes had failed to demonstrate they would suffer actual, irreparable harm if the pipeline kept operating. Boasberg dismissed the case in June without prejudice.

Dakota Access has meanwhile already begun moving even more barrels of oil, with minimum volume commitments for the pipeline’s expansion project beginning on Aug. 1. The pipeline now has the ability to move 750,000 barrels per day, officials said during the company’s most recent earnings call.

The full expansion for the Dakota Access pipeline is 1.1 million barrels of oil per day. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said the court-ordered EIS will also evaluate the company’s expansion.

The 1,176-mile Dakota Access pipeline began operating in 2017 with a capacity of up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day — about half of the state’s production. The oil is taken to the Gulf Coast by way of the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline, with which it connects in Patoka, Illinois.

The pipeline has attracted protesters from around the world and has faced numerous lawsuits filed by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who have said they fear an oil spill from the pipeline could affect their water supply.

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