Federal appeals court overturns district judge’s decision to shut down Dakota Access Pipeline: Reports

A recent decision by a federal appeals court likely has President Donald Trump celebrating.

According to The Hill, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned a lower court’s ruling on Wednesday in a decision that will allow the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to remain in operation pending additional review of its potential environmental impact.

The Hill noted that “the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the pipeline to be temporarily shut down [in July] while the Army Corps. of Engineers conducts the additional assessment.” But a three-judge panel on the federal court of appeals said Wednesday that District Court Judge James Boasberg “did not have the ‘findings necessary'” to make such a determination, The Hill reported.

Pipeline controversy

President Trump, for his part, has long prioritized America’s energy independence, and that involves constructing and operating pipelines to transport resources within the nation’s borders — including the Dakota Access Pipeline, which, according to USA Today, moves oil from North Dakota to a shipping point in Illinois.

The pipeline is owned by a Texas-based company called Energy Transfer and has been in operation since mid-2017, according to Reuters. But in his July 6 ruling, Boasberg, an Obama appointee, sought to cut the pipeline off, USA Today reported.

According to Reuters, Boasberg’s ruling came at the behest of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Their chief complaint was that the pipeline passes underneath Lake Oahe, which Reuters described as “a crucial drinking-water source” for the tribe.

More red tape

According to Reuters, Energy Transfer says the judge’s order would have cost the company billions of dollars. The company also argued that following the delays imposed by the Obama administration, the project has already obtained all of the necessary permits and undergone environmental impact studies without any problems.

But even as Judge Boasberg acknowledged that the company, as well as the Army Corps. of Engineers, had “largely complied” with pertinent environmental regulations, as USA Today reported, he nonetheless ordered an additional review — and ordered the pipeline to be shut down in the meantime. It was the latter part with which the U.S. Appeals Court took issue on Wednesday.

Still, despite the appeals court allowing the pipeline to continue operating, Reuters reports that under the latest ruling, “U.S. regulatory officials may still need to issue another environmental assessment” for the pipeline “before deciding if [it] can keep operating” — and the tribe and its anti-pipeline backers have cheered that as a win.

“Appellants have failed to make a strong showing of likely success on their claims that the district court erred in directing the Corps to prepare an environmental impact statement,” the appeals court said Wednesday, according to The Hill.

The bottom line

Reacting to the news, Paul Alfonso, senior vice president and chief legal officer of the American Petroleum Institute, said the court’s decision to allow the pipeline to remain operational was the right call. “The Court rightly stayed the decision to shut down and empty the Dakota Access Pipeline, which has been operating for over three years and provides millions of tax dollars to states, affordable energy to the entire region, and thousands of jobs along its route,” he said, according to The Hill. He went on:

However, the failure to uphold the easement granted years ago by the federal government exemplifies the problems with our outdated permitting system, which allows protracted challenges to advance within the courts and ultimately take away jobs, tax dollars, and investments that pipelines bring to communities that sorely need them.

Only time will tell what the future ultimately holds for the Dakota Access Pipeline, but for now, it looks like President Trump can count this court decision as a win.

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