KEY POINTS

  • A federal appellate court granted an administrative stay to Energy Transfer LP to file briefs to have the Dakota Access pipeline reopened
  • A lower court ruled on July 6 to have the pipeline drained and shutdown while a study was conducted to understand the environmental risks the pipeline poses
  • The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmentalists warn the pipleline poses threats to the environment

A U.S. appellate court stayed a lower court order issued earlier this month shutting down the Dakota Access oil pipeline, allowing Energy Transfer LP to continue moving oil from production fields in North Dakota to refineries around the Midwest and Gulf Coast while the case is argued further.

Attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposing the pipeline, said this sort of move is typical and won’t impact the tribe’s fight against the pipeline.

“It's important to recognize: An administrative stay is not in any way indicative of how the court is going to rule -- it just buys the court a little additional time to make a decision,” Hasselman told the Bismark Tribune. “They are very typical in these kinds of situations.

“We look forward to the opportunity to explain why the district court got this right.”

The pipeline has been a point of contention between Energy Transfer LP and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe since construction started in 2016. Energy Transfer and the pipeline's supporters have argued the pipeline would play a “critical role in the American energy infrastructure network.” The Sioux tribe and environmentalists have pushed back, arguing the pipeline represents a massive environmental risk for the lands it traverses.

A particular point of criticism by the Standing Rock Sioux has been a stretch of the pipeline built beneath Lake Oahe in South Dakota. The lake is considered sacred and a critical source of clean drinking water for the tribe. The tribe filed suit 2017 to have the pipeline shut down.

The U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia stayed an order issued by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg July 6 that found the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated federal environmental law when it allowed Energy Transfer to construct part of the pipeline under Lake Oahe in 2017. Boasberg ordered the pipeline drained and shutdown while an environmental impact study is conducted to determine the risks the pipeline presents.

Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline raged for months in North Dakota in 2016 Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline raged for months in North Dakota in 2016 Photo: AFP / Robyn BECK