The builder of the Dakota Access oil pipeline and the federal agency that permitted the project are objecting to an effort by American Indian tribes to bolster protections for their water supply.
Lawyers for Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners and the Army Corps of Engineers argue separately in documents filed Wednesday in federal court in Washington, D.C., that the proposals by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux are unnecessary or unwarranted.
"Measures are already in place to achieve the objectives behind each proposed set of conditions," company attorneys wrote.
The dispute centers around the $3.8 billion pipeline's crossing of the Missouri River's Lake Oahe reservoir in southern North Dakota.
Both tribes get water from the lake and fear contamination should the pipeline leak. They are among four Dakotas tribes suing to shut down the pipeline that began moving North Dakota oil to a distribution point in Illinois on June 1.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg is requiring the Corps to further review the project's impact on tribal interests, but he's allowing oil to continue flowing while that work is done over the next several months. In the meantime, the tribes are seeking increased public reporting of pipeline issues such as repairs, and implementation of an emergency spill response plan at the lake crossing with tribal input. The spill response plan will include equipment staging.
ETP said it already has emergency equipment and personnel staged "near" the crossing and has also "taken steps to include the tribes in response planning." The company said it is willing to continue working with them on a voluntary basis.
Corps attorneys argue that the tribal request is "unnecessary, duplicative and burdensome" and note that "the court has already upheld the Corps' conclusion that the risk of a spill is low."
In a separate legal dispute in federal court in North Dakota, landowners who claim ETP deceived and defrauded them while acquiring land easements for the pipeline will appeal the dismissal of their lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in October sided with a subsidiary of ETP and the land acquisition consulting business Contract Land Staff. Both businesses disputed the claims of the 21 landowners who were seeking more than $4 million in damages.
The landowners have filed a notice of appeal to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorney Peter Zuger declined to discuss their argument until a formal appeal brief is filed in the next couple of months.
ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado said the company does not comment on pending legal matters.
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