Energy Transfer Partners pushes back against the Obama administration one day after the Army Corps of Engineers asked for more review of the North Dakota project.
In a push to finish the Dakota Access Pipeline, its developers claimed in a federal lawsuit Tuesday that they have all permits needed to complete the project and accused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of political interference to delay it.
“Dakota has waited long enough for removal of this legal cloud over the right of way beneath federal land at Lake Oahe,” the developer claimed in its suit. The lake was formed by a dam on the Missouri River, and is where the developer seeks to cross under the river to connect the two ends of the pipeline.
The pushback from Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas, comes one day after the Corps announced it needed more time to decide when or if it would grant a crucial easement for the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River.
“I think the tide is turning,” said Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice in Seattle, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux. “This is a desperate gambit by a troubled project. Everyone has understood since July they don’t have this easement. Showing up and shifting the story and saying they don’t need it shows they are getting desperate.”
Open to question is whether the company will now just go ahead and resume work, without waiting to hear from the judge or the Corps. “Anything could happen,” Hasselman said. “But you can be sure we will be in court quick if they do.”
The Corps has said it wants to consider further the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that the pipeline poses grave risks to its water supply and sacred sites. The tribe has sued to block the pipeline, claiming the piecemeal fast-track approval of the pipeline so far was illegal, and that a full environmental analysis is needed.
The tribe also states in its suit that it has never been meaningfully consulted on the pipeline, which would cross a half-mile from its reservation borders.
The company seeks to build the 1,172-mile-long oil pipeline through four states, to carry as much as 570,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota to refineries. It already has built almost the entire pipeline, taking the risk of beginning construction before attaining the final easement it needs from the Corps to cross under the river and complete it.
However, the company stated in its countersuit Tuesday that it already has the access it needs via permits attained under the federal Mineral Leasing Act.
Instead of waiting longer for an easement the company now insists is “purely ministerial” and superfluous, Dakota Access wants clearance from the court to let it get going on drilling under the river.
The company’s counterpunch comes on a national day of solidarity with pipeline opponents, with demonstrations at Corps of Engineers offices and banks financing the project all over the country.
In Seattle, pipeline opponents demonstrated Tuesday evening in Ballard. In Bellingham on Tuesday afternoon, two 75-year old residents locked themselves to BNSF train tracks to protest oil and coal trains and oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. They unlocked themselves by early evening.
Meanwhile in Mandan, N.D., Tuesday morning more than 400 demonstrators used a pickup and tree branches to block railroad tracks supplying the pipeline site Tuesday morning, until they were dispersed by police in riot gear, using pepper spray and in one case a stun gun. There were 25 arrests.
Nearly 500 people have been arrested demonstrating against the controversial project since last August. Washington tribes facing their own fossil-fuel troubles have traveled to the protest camps and donated to the opposition cause.
The suit is sure to throw the project into further confusion, even as the election of President-elect Donald Trump, an investor in the project, added a new twist to the contentious pipeline’s future.
Meanwhile, more opponents continue to pour into camps near the pipeline site, as winter approaches. The tribe has also continued to reach out for support, releasing an eight-minute documentary Tuesday on its Facebook page about the pipeline conflict.
Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II stated Tuesday, “Dakota Access is so desperate to get this project in the ground that it is now suing the federal government on the novel theory that it doesn’t need an easement to cross federal lands.
“We are looking forward to discussing the easement … and why it must be denied.”