Tribes say Dakota Access pipeline overstates shutdown impact

American Indian tribes hoping to persuade a federal judge to turn off the Dakota Access oil pipeline maintain in last-minute court filings that the project's developer has overstated the potential impacts of a shutdown.

Standing Rock Sioux attorney Jan Hasselman and Cheyenne River Sioux attorney Nicole Ducheneaux also argue that Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners brought potential problems on itself by forging ahead with construction despite the uncertainty of final federal approval.

ETP "made reckless choices, and it must accept the consequences," the attorneys wrote in documents filed Monday, the deadline for arguments imposed by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C.

The $3.8 billion pipeline began moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois on June 1, after President Donald Trump pushed for its completion. The Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the project, had decided to do more environmental study, but dropped that plan after Trump took office.

The judge ruled in June that the Corps didn't adequately consider how an oil spill under Lake Oahe in the Dakotas might affect the Standing Rock Sioux, one of four tribes that have challenged the pipeline in court. He ordered the Corps to reconsider certain areas of its environmental analysis, and could decide to shut down the 1,200-mile pipeline while this work is done over the next several months.

ETP has maintained in court documents that a shutdown would cost it $90 million monthly, and significantly disrupt the broader energy industry as well as state and local government tax revenue.

"There is no legitimate basis for arguing that suspending DAPL will cause havoc," Hasselman and Ducheneaux wrote. "Suspension of DAPL undoubtedly will have some impacts, but they will be more modest and manageable than DAPL contends."

Company spokeswoman Vicki Granado on Monday declined comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

Some energy trade groups including The American Petroleum Institute, which the judge on Monday granted a say in the dispute, said a shutdown "would result in substantial financial loss and uncertainty for upstream producers, shippers, downstream refiners, manufacturers, retailers and consumers."

The amount of oil being shipped through the pipeline each day is worth more than $20 million, and "if DAPL were to be taken out of service for even six months, the direct financial impact of the stalled crude deliveries would be staggering," attorney David Coburn wrote.

The tribal attorneys question the seriousness of a shutdown impact, noting that the pipeline has been operating only a short time but that Energy Transfer Partners "claimed that the oil industry is already dependent on its continued operation."

"One can only imagine the arguments that DAPL would try to make if operations continued for an extended period," they said.


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