BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A lawsuit from two Sioux tribes seeking to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline was put on hold while a separate but related court battle over the project plays out.
Dallas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners is asking U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., to rule that the company received proper permission from the Army in July to lay pipe under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota — the last remaining chunk of construction for the $3.8 billion project. The Army earlier this month said more study was needed in light of concerns from the Standing Rock Sioux that the pipeline could threaten cultural sites and drinking water.
Energy Transfer Partners disputes the tribe’s claims and says the pipeline is safe. The pipeline would carry North Dakota oil 1,200 miles through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.
The Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux are challenging federal pipeline permits at numerous water crossings. The tribes earlier this month said they were willing to put their claims on hold until the fight between ETP and the Army is resolved, and Boasberg in a ruling dated Friday agreed to do so.
One reason for delaying the tribal challenge is to enable the court to focus on the Missouri River crossing dispute, which has stalled the project that was supposed to be done by the end of this year.
“Holding the tribes’ claims in abeyance will serve the interests of judicial economy by enabling Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, and the Corps and the court to focus on resolving the (river crossing matter) on an expedited basis,” said the joint proposal from the tribes and the Army Corps of Engineers that Boasberg approved.
Boasberg earlier this month gave the government until Jan. 6 to file its opposition to ETP’s request. Oral arguments won’t be held until at least February.