The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the final easement needed to finish construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
In a letter to Congress, the agency said it approved a section of the pipeline that will run under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, clearing the way for the completion of the four-state, 1,170-mile pipeline.
The Army Corps said it would waive the 14-day wait period required after notifying Congress of the approval to officially grant an easement to Energy Transfer Partners, the builder of the $3.8 billion pipeline. This means the company can restart construction in 24 hours.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has said that they would “vigorously pursue legal action” if the easement was granted.
The months-long protests against the pipeline became a flash point for Native Americans, leading to the largest indigenous movement in modern history.
The pipeline was scheduled to be completed and operational last year until protesters,including environmental and indigenous activists, descended on the rural North Dakota site to delay the project. The pipeline’s path ran north of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.
The tribe protested the pipeline for months, citing concerns over contamination of the Missouri River water supply and damage to cultural sites on their land. Energy Transfer said the pipeline was safer for transporting oil than rail or trucks.
The Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline were put on hold during the Obama administration. But new executive orders by President Trump begin putting them back on track, as part of efforts to undo former President Obama’s legacy. How do these moves fit into the broader Trump agenda for energy and the environment? William Brangham talks with Valerie Volcovici of Reuters.
In December, the Army Corps halted construction, saying it wouldn’t green-light the final permits for the project until further environmental review was provided. In today’s letter, however, the corps proposed terminating the Environmental Impact Statement that was in progress.
After taking office, President Donald Trump signed executive actions that aimed to curb these type of reviews and sought to lift projects that were once stopped or delayed under former President Barack Obama. The Army said late last month it had been directed to expedite the review of the Standing Rock route.
A notice in the Federal Register on Jan. 18 said the Army would gather comments on the project through Feb. 20 as it prepared an environmental impact statement. The final easement appears to shorten that period for comments.
The documents below were filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.