By: Devanshi Srivastava
On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a district judge’s order for an environmental impact review of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). However, while the court was reviewing being completed, the court declined to shut the line down.
Crude oil transportation was done through North Dakota to Illinois by the DAPL. The pipeline provides several Great Sioux Nation successor tribes with water for drinking, industry, and sacred cultural practices beneath Lake Oahe. The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) granted an easement for the DAPL to cross the federally owned land.
Any federal agency that issues construction permits, opens new land to drilling, or undertakes any other “major” project must look at the project’s environmental consequences, under the National Environmental Protection Act(NEPA). The federal agency is supposed to develop an environmental impact statement (EIS) identifying and rigorously appraising the project’s environmental effects, but it does not have to develop an EIS if it finds that the project will have no significant impact.
A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia in July vacated the easement and ordered the pipeline to shut down and eventually emptied of oil pending a review of its environmental impact. The appeals court affirmed the order vacating the easement while the USACE prepares an environmental impact statement but reversed the order to shut the pipeline down and empty it of oil on Tuesday.
The appeals court, at last, concluded that the USACE violated the NEPA by issuing the easement without preparing an environmental impact statement. The agency was failed in convincing the court that it had materially addressed and resolved serious objections to its analysis as the appeals court found that there was unresolved controversy requiring the USACE to prepare an EIS.