Dakota Access Pipeline lacks key approval to build at Lake Oahe site near reservation

North Dakota State Troopers arrested a Dakota Access Pipeline resister on August 15, 2016. Photo by Rob Wilson

Work on the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline remains on hold in North Dakota amid legal and regulatory hurdles.

On the legal front, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in hopes of putting a stop to the controversial project. During a hearing in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, an attorney for the agency noted that pipeline backers lack approval to conduct work at Lake Oahe along the Missouri River.

That means a key part of the project remains in regulatory limbo even after the Dakota Access LLC partnership started work over the tribe's objections.

"They can’t build the project by accessing corps property from west to east across Lake Oahe," Army Corps spokesperson Larry Janis told The Bismarck Tribune, which followed up on the story.

The lack of approval brought an element of surprise to the court proceeding. People on all sides of the battle -- including an attorney for the pipeline partnership -- seemed to be caught off guard by the disclosure.

“Everybody thought they had it (easement),” attorney Carolyn Raffensperger, the executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, which has been helping the tribe and its members, told The Tribune. “This is really important information.”

The pipeline itself comes within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The Lake Oahe site at issue is about a mile from the Camp of the Sacred Stones [Facebook | Twitter | GoFundMe] near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, according to The Tribune.

The tribe established the camp in April and it has attracted upwards of 2,000 people as word about the cause spreads in Indian Country. Interest is also growing among environmental groups, The Hill reported, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), a former candidate for president, announced support for the #NoDAPL movement on Thursday.

"As a nation, our job is to break our addiction to fossil fuels, not increase our dependence on oil," Sanders said in the statement. "I join with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many tribal nations fighting this dangerous pipeline.”

The 1,172-mile pipeline would start in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota before crossing into South Dakota. From there the route goes through Iowa -- where the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Meskwaki Tribe have raised objections.

The pipeline path ends in Illinois and backers say it would carry about 470,000 barrels a day. It has the capacity to carry up to 570,000 barrels a day or even more, according to Dakota Access.

The pipeline does not directly cross any reservations but it goes through territories ceded by tribes through treaties. It also goes through historic tribal sites, including a burial ground in the northwest part of Iowa.

Landowners in Iowa have filed a lawsuit in hopes of addressing their concerns and they asked the Iowa Utilities Board to order a stop in construction but the board declined to do so on Thursday. The board will be discussing the pipeline at a public hearing on Friday afternoon.

Read More on the Story:
Corps says pipeline still needs water-crossing easement (The Bismarck Tribune 8/26)
Protesters adjust to camp life (The Bismarck Tribune 8/26)
North Dakota Oil Pipeline Battle: Who’s Fighting and Why (The New York Times 8/26)
Pipeline Battle Draws Hundreds To Remote North Dakota (Inside Energy 8/26)
22 percent of Iowa pipeline already built, Dakota Access says (The Des Moines Register 8/26)
Board rejects motion to temporarily halt pipeline project (The Waterloo Cedar Fall Courier 8/26)
Dakota Access Pipeline Work Has Not Resumed In North Dakota (AP 8/25)
Members of the Spirit Lake Nation weigh in on pipeline protests (WDAZ 8/25)
Greens push Obama to block N. Dakota pipeline (The Hill 8/25)
Environmental Groups Ask Obama to Repeal Dakota Access Permit (Morning Consult 8/25)
Susan Sarandon & Shailene Woodley rally against Dakota Access Pipeline (RT America 8/24)
'Unlawful' protest over oil pipeline is dangerous, Lt. Gov. Wrigley says (The Fargo Forum 8/24)

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