A judge on Monday ordered that officials empty the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline and shut the project down by Aug. 5 as engineers work to prepare a report on its environmental impact.
The ruling marks a win for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and several environmental groups who have protested construction of the pipeline for years. It was also seen as a rebuke to President Donald Trump’s administration, which has worked to fast-track the approval of pipelines, according to Politico.
"Fearing severe environmental consequences, American Indian Tribes on nearby reservations have sought for several years to invalidate federal permits allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil under (Lake Oahe)," Judge James Boasberg wrote in an opinion issued Monday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. "Today they finally achieve that goal -- at least for the time being."
Boasberg ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted an easement to build the Dakota Access Pipeline despite its failure to conduct an environmental impact report.
He acknowledged Monday that shutting down the pipeline is likely to create a disruption but said that "the seriousness of the Corps' deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow" for the 13 months engineers will need to complete an environmental impact report.
“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” tribal Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg Law. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”
Permits for the project were originally rejected by the Obama administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers prepared to conduct a full environmental review. In February 2017, shortly after Trump took office, the Corps scrapped the review and granted permits, concluding that running the pipeline under the Missouri River posed no significant environmental issues.
The Corps said that opinion was validated after an additional year of review, as ordered by Boasberg in 2017.
Boasberg had ruled then that the Corps “largely complied” with environmental law when permitting the pipeline but ordered more review because he said the agency did not adequately consider how an oil spill under the Missouri River might affect the Standing Rock Sioux’s fishing and hunting rights, or whether it might disproportionately affect the tribal community.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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