Tag: Judge James Boasberg

Fossil Fuel Strangulation by Judicial Decree


Judge James Boasberg of the District of Columbia District Court issued a short opinion last week in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In it, he instructed Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline builder, to temporarily cease using its 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which ships up to 570,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks fields of North Dakota to terminals and refineries in Patoka, IL.

The dispute was about a short-stretch of pipeline (1,094 feet) that ran approximately 100-feet below a lake, about one-half mile from tribal lands. From the moment that DAPL was announced, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe mounted a full-scale attack on the venture. The pipeline was seen as yet another affront to its tribal way of life—the latest in a long string of historical injustices undertaken by, or with the blessing of, the United States government.  At a more concrete level, the Tribe argued that the pipeline would run through its sacred lands and damage its water supply.

In fact, the pipeline does not cross into the Tribe’s land. Nonetheless, the Tribe sought to exercise its statutory rights to be consulted about the pipeline under both the National Historic Protection Act (NHPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  In 2015, the Tribe sued the Corps to reroute DAPL away from its lands, and raised multiple objections about the design and site of the pipeline.  The objections to the pipeline continued even after it was put into operation in June 2017 without serious incident.