Tribes have not met "high bar" for Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown, Corps says
Monday, November 23, 2020

Shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline would "cause economic harm and shift oil transport to more risky methods" and should not occur, a federal permitting agency argued in the latest round of legal filings in the ongoing dispute over the oil pipeline. 

The same judge who ordered the line to cease operations this past summer is considering another plea from the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes to shut the line down after a higher court overturned part of the initial ruling. An appellate court said U.S. District Judge James Boasberg "did not make the findings necessary" for a shutdown in his July order, and it kicked the matter back to him for further consideration.

Recent legal filings have rehashed familiar arguments from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, pipeline developer Energy Transfer, the tribe and others with a stake in the outcome of the pipeline dispute. Standing Rock tribal members are concerned that an oil spill at the pipeline's Missouri River crossing would harm their water supply, while the Corps and Energy Transfer maintain the line is safe.

The Corps in a brief submitted Friday said the tribes have not met the "high bar" required for a shutdown, in which they must show they are certain or likely to "suffer an irreparable injury that cannot be remedied and that the balance of hardships tips in their favor."

"The scales are not close to evenly balanced," the Corps said.

The agency argued the risk of a significant oil spill is low and called tribes' concerns "speculative and abstract."

Shutting down the pipeline would prompt the oil industry to rely more on trains to transport crude, which poses risks, the Corps said. Fiery oil train derailments can be deadly, such as when a train carrying Bakken crude derailed in Quebec in 2013, killing 47 people.

The North Dakota attorney general's office also filed a brief Friday outlining potential harm to the state if the pipeline were to shut down. The office argued the oil industry would lose billions of dollars and that state tax revenue would see "drastic reductions." A shutdown also would lead to job losses and would stymie the state's economic recovery, the state said. 

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