(WASHINGTON) — On the eve of the deadline for anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protesters to vacate camps in North Dakota, the company in charge of construction said in a court filing on Tuesday that oil could start flowing in as early as two weeks, beating previous estimates.
Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners, the builder of the pipeline whose construction has sparked protests since last August over its location, said in the filing to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that the company “estimates and targets that the pipeline will be complete and ready to flow oil anywhere between the week of March 6, 2017 and April 1, 2017.”
The court filing was required as part of an ongoing legal battle that is challenging the construction at the site by Lake Oahe.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum last week called for the Oceti Sakowin protest camp — located on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation — to be evacuated by Wednesday, Feb. 23., claiming ecological damage at the camp and rising post-winter floodwaters.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Great Sioux Nation, has joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit against the pipeline, filing a motion at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Feb. 9 seeking a temporary restraining order “to halt construction and drilling” under and on either side of the land surrounding the lake.
The tribe argued that the pipeline “will desecrate the waters upon which Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members rely for their most important religious practices and therefore substantially burden the free exercise of their religion,” according to a court document obtained by ABC News.
Last Monday, the court denied that motion seeking a temporary restraining order. On Tuesday, the pipeline company said that the Cheyenne River Sioux legal claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “has no chance of success on the merits.”
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed a separate motion seeking a preliminary injunction directing the Army Corps to withdraw the easement issued to the pipeline company on Feb. 8. The tribe alleges that the easement granted is “entirely unlawful,” according to court documents. A further hearing on the Cheyenne River Sioux’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the pipeline is set for Feb. 27 in Washington, D.C.
After receiving the easement to build the pipeline across land on both sides of Lake Oahe, Energy Transfer Partners announced it would resume construction immediately, and indeed work has resumed.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, which would connect oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been at the forefront of massive and prolonged protests over the four-state crude oil pipeline. The demonstrations have drawn thousands of Native Americans, environmental activists and their allies to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.
Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, has said that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on local water supply are unfounded” and “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.”
In the final days of President Barack Obama’s administration, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, announced on Dec. 4 that an easement would not be granted for the pipeline to cross under the large reservoir on the Missouri River.
The move to deny the easement was hailed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other pipeline opponents as a major victory. But on his second weekday in office, President Trump signed a memorandum aimed at advancing the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as one directed at the Keystone XL pipeline.
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