Even as the Dakota Access pipeline is seeking to expand its capacity, an appeals court ruling has dealt a significant blow to the original pipeline.
The U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. has ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline, which is already completed and operational.
The ruling so far does not affect operation of the pipeline, although the judge in the case, James E. Boasberg, has asked for briefings as to whether to vacate the permit.
In his ruling, Boasberg agreed with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that there were too many unanswered questions about the pipeline’s impacts and that it fits the definition of highly controversial under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Dakota Access had previously conducted a less detailed environmental study referred to as an Environmental Assessment, as well as a court-ordered supplement to that.
Members of the GAIN Coalition, which have advocated for construction of the pipeline, said it is a stunning decision that flies in the face of decades of widely accepted practices.
“The Dakota Access Pipeline is already the most studied, regulated, and litigated pipeline in the history of our country and has been safely operating for nearly three years,” GAIN spokesman Craig Stevens said. “These companies that invest and support large scale infrastructure projects want certainty from the government; and those who built and now operate the pipeline followed every applicable local, state, and federal rule — but now a court is putting their work in potential peril. Not only does this decision risk one company’s investment, but it could also jeopardize our nation’s economic and energy security moving forward.”