Appeals court temporarily stays Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown

Highlights

Administrative stay granted for DAPL shutdown

Arguments for a broader emergency stay are due next week

DAPL was undergoing scheduled maintenance this week

Houston —
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay of the planned shutdown of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline as part of an administrative action to give a three-judge panel more time to consider arguments in favor of keeping the pipeline open.

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The crude pipeline was previously ordered shut by early August pending a more thorough environmental review of the 570,000 b/d pipeline that opened three years ago, although Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court for the District of Columbia said in his July 9 order that he was willing to extend the timing of the shutdown to let the pipeline empty more safely.

The Court of Appeals will now consider emergency stay requests from pipeline operator Energy Transfer, the US Army Corps of Engineers and 19 states to keep the pipeline open for the flow of oil from the Bakken Shale.

“The purpose of this administrative stay is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion,” the appeals court panel stated in its one-page order.

The panel of judges asked for responses for the emergency stay to be filed by July 20 and for replies to those arguments by July 23.

On July 8, Energy Transfer said it was keeping the pipeline open and accepting nominations for volumes in August because of the potential for a successful appeal on short notice. On July 14, Energy Transfer said it was performing scheduled maintenance on the pipeline.

The four-state Dakota Access Pipeline originates in North Dakota and runs to a hub near Patoka, Illinois, where it connects with the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline, which runs to Nederland, Texas. The system provides an outlet for crude producers in the Bakken Shale and Three Forks areas of the Williston Basin to ship their barrels south.

Long fight

Boasberg on July 7 previously denied Energy Transfer’s emergency request for a stay, meaning Energy Transfer must rely on appeals or some kind of additional intervention from the White House.

The unprecedented ruling to shutter an existing pipeline — which was completed three years ago amid a series of intense environmental protests and arrests — came after the judge determined the US Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct a proper environmental review as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Energy Transfer has argued Boasberg exceeded his authority and does not have the jurisdiction to shut the pipeline or stop the flow of crude oil. However, the pipeline company has said it is not suggesting it would defy any court orders.

The Trump administration has pushed the Corps to fast-track the review processes for pipeline projects that were moving along much more slowly under former President Barack Obama. The industry concern is that if presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden beats Trump in November’s election, then the Dakota Access Pipeline could be permanently closed and other pipeline projects shelved indefinitely.