The Dakota Access Pipeline is one step closer to being completed, after the acting secretary of the Army asked the Army Corps of Engineers to issue an easement that would allow the last part of construction to proceed. The easement — essentially, the permission to build — doesn’t appear to have been officially been granted yet, but is reportedly imminent. The news comes one week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that reversed Obama-administration blocks to the controversial Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental activists have sought to block the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, which they say passes through sacred tribal lands and threatens drinking water. Tense demonstrations raged last year, and though numbers have dwindled and cleanup of the protest site has begun, a few stragglers still remain camped out. Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the Standing Rock tribe, told the Guardian that he expects the easement to come, which would allow part of the pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe in North Dakota — the contested piece of real estate. Hasselman indicated that the fight will continue in the courts.
North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven said in a statement that the easement would enable the “completion of the project,” which would be “built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream.”
The Army Corps of Engineers, under the Obama administration, halted the project so that the agency could investigate alternative routes and conduct more environmental-impact assessments. That move significantly delayed — but did not permanently terminate — the pipeline construction, as those studies were expected to take years to complete. According to the Guardian, the Army Corps of Engineers had filed a notice of intent to complete those studies on the very last days of the Obama administration.
Even if the easement is coming soon, the timeline isn’t clear on exactly when — and that goes for the resumption of the pipeline construction as well. This will likely shape up to be a legal battle among the pipeline company, the government, and the Standing Rock tribe. The next court date is scheduled for February 6.