Army says it intends to grant Dakota Access pipeline final easement

The US Department of the Army announced it has completed a presidential-directed review of the remaining easement request for the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline, and has notified Congress that it intends to grant an easement for a right-of-way across government land at Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

The US Department of the Army announced it has completed a presidential-directed review of the remaining easement request for the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline, and has notified Congress that it intends to grant an easement for a right-of-way across government land at Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

The decision was based on a sufficient amount of information being available already that supported approval of the easement, and the Army chose to terminate a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement that the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) issued previously, Acting Army Sec. Robert Speer said.

“Today’s announcement will allow for the final step, which is granting of the easement,” Speer said. “Once that it done, we will have completed all the tasks in the Presidential Memorandum of Jan. 24.” He referred to an executive order that US President Donald J. Trump issued that day for an expedited review and approval of the project.

His subordinate, Army Asst. Sec. for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, announced 2 months earlier that the Army would not approve the easement, and that consideration of an alternative route would best be accomplished by an EIS with full public input and analysis (OGJ Online, Dec. 5, 2016).

Her office previously had said it would delay the easement decision for discussions with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies ½ mile south of the proposed crossing (OGJ Online, Nov. 15, 2016).

The Army said on Feb. 7 that its action would facilitate completion of the last 1½ miles of the 1,172-mile, 30-in. pipeline, connecting the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Patoka, Ill.

‘Listen, work together’

Hours earlier, US Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) said she had met with Speer, who notified her that ACE would approve the Lake Oahe easement. “Throughout continued delays and stalling tactics during the last administration, I’ve been pushing for the certainty our communities need, and as [ACE] delivers the finality they deserve today, it’s crucial that all parties double down in their resolve to listening and working together,” she said.

Protesters have the right to lawfully and peacefully demonstrate, and law enforcement, residents, and tribal members deserve to have their safety guaranteed, Heitkamp said.

“Going forward, I’ll continue to monitor the federal government’s work to renew guidance addressing required tribal consultation for future infrastructure projects on or near tribal land, and I’ll keep working with the federal delegation and the governor in a bipartisan effort to push for more federal support for law enforcement,” Heitkamp said.

Other congressional Democrats were critical. “This blatant disregard for federal law and our country’s treaty and trust responsibilities to Native American tribes is unacceptable,” five Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee members, including Ranking Member Maria E. Cantwell (Wash.), and four House Natural Resources Committee members, including Ranking Member Raul M. Grijalva, told President Trump in a Feb. 7 letter.

‘An important step’

Republicans were pleased. “President Trump has promised to put Americans back to work and this is an important step in fulfilling that promise,” Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John A. Barrasso (Wyo.) said. “This project will also provide an efficient means of transporting American oil and will improve our nation’s energy security. I applaud the Trump administration for making it a priority.”

Not every national oil and gas association responded immediately. An American Petroleum Institute spokesman told OGJ on Feb. 8 that API would comment when the easement is issued.

American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers Pres. Chet Thompson said that the project was long overdue, and added he was pleased to hear that ACE would be granting the final easement. “This pipeline was needlessly delayed, despite meeting the required environmental approvals. By moving forward with this critical infrastructure project, President Trump is fulfilling the commitment he made to the America people to build out the necessary infrastructure to unleash the vast potential of America’s energy resources,” he said.

Other national business associations welcomed the announcement. “Today’s news indicates a positive step forward for the Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Karen A. Harbert, President of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. “It’s encouraging to see how seriously the Trump administration is taking the need to build energy infrastructure, which will create jobs, improve our security, and keep energy affordable for families and businesses around the country.”

National Association of Manufacturers Pres. Jay Timmons noted that the approval is “welcomed news” for manufacturers. “Such investments in America’s energy infrastructure create tremendous opportunities for the manufacturers who supply these projects. The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline will boost manufacturing across the country.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

More in Pipelines & Transportation