Dakota Access Pipeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is a 1,172-mile underground crude oil pipeline beginning in Bakken oil fields of western North Dakota, then travels southeast through South Dakota and Iowa to an oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois. The $3.78 billion project was announced to the public in June 2014, and informational hearings for landowners took place between August 2014 and January 2015. Dakota Access, LLC, controlled by Energy Transfer Partners, started constructing the pipeline in June 2016. The pipeline was completed by April 2017 and the pipeline became commercially operational on June 1, 2017. The 30-inch diameter pipeline is capable of transporting up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline occurred at several places because of concerns about the pipeline's impact on the environment and to sites sacred to Native Americans. Indigenous nations around the country opposed the pipeline, along with the Sioux tribal nations. A months-long protest in Morton County brought an estimated 10,000 In North Dakota, who formed an encampment on land controlled by the Corps of Engineers. The state of North Dakota was ultimately saddled with $38 million in law enforcement costs associated with monitoring the protests, as well as cleaning up and hauling thousands of tons of garbage from the abandoned protest site. 

The Dakota Access Pipeline helped increase production in the Bakken by lowering transportation costs for producers, and providing a safer means of transportation over truck or rail. State officials have estimated the pipeline added $3.00 to $5.00 to the value of North Dakota crude, improving profits for producers, netting millions more for royalty owners and generating hundreds of millions in additional tax revenue for the state and local political subdivisions.

The Standing Rock Tribe, other tribal nations, and legal partner Earthjustice continue efforts to shut down the DAPL pipeline. In what some called an "inexplicable" ruling, a federal judge ruled in March 2020 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must complete an environmental impact statement (EIS) of the original Dakota Access Pipeline project. The decision by Judge James Boasberg of the DC District Court said the Corps failed to fully examine whether the pipeline’s effects were likely to be "highly controversial" as they apply to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The judge later ruled that DAPL must be shut down and emptied of oil, a decision that was blocked on appeal 

However, another legal attempt to shut down the pipeline has been submitted by the tribes and Earthjustice. The latest motion has been vigorously opposed by Dakota Access, the Corps of Engineers and the State of North Dakota. The Western Dakota Energy Association has also submitted an amicus brief in support of continued operation of DAPL, noting that a shutdown would “cause widespread and likely long-lasting economic and social damage to the communities and people of western North Dakota.” 

In the midst of the legal wrangling, Dakota Access has been granted permission to nearly double the pipeline’s capacity by adding pumping stations along the route. The “optimization” project would allow the pipeline to transport up to 1.1 million barrels per day.

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Issue Updates

4/9/21 - DAPL to Remain in Operation for Now: Judge Asks for Reasons to Keep Oil Flowing
An attorney for the Corps of Engineers told a federal judge the Corps will allow the DAPL to remain in operation while it continues to review the pipeline's environmental impact. Judge Boasberg postponed any decision in the case, instead giving pipeline operator 10 days to update the economic impact information it filed last fall.

4/9/21 - Stenehjem Letter Seeks DAPL Discussion: Major Federal Action Requires Consultation
Attorney General Stenehjem sent a strongly-worded letter to the Corps of Engineers last week, cautioning the Corps that contemplation of a shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline requires a government-to-government consultation.

2/12/21 - MHA Nation, Burgum Support Pipeline: Leaders Urge Corps to Keep DAPL Running
Mark Fox told legislators this week the tribe is sending a "strong message" to the Biden administration, urging continued development of federal minerals and continued operation of DAPL. Gov. Burgum also sent a letter to the Corps of Engineers this week, urging them to allow DAPL to continue operating as work on a court-ordered EIS continues.

Resources and References

Media Coverage

Judge orders delay amid debate over Dakota Access pipeline
4/9/21 -
Biden administration punts on DAPL shutdown, likely leaving pipeline's fate to federal judge
4/9/21 -
DAPL at crucial crossroad: A guide to ND's bitter pipeline dispute
3/10/21 -
Senate energy panel backs DAPL opponent Haaland for US Interior
3/4/21 -
U.S. Army Corps attorneys withdraw from Dakota Access Pipeline case
2/12/21 -
ND oil prices surge and output stalls as DAPL's fate awaited
2/10/21 -
Judge delays hearing on permit for DAPL
2/9/21 -
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