Mountain States

North Dakota Attorney General Lays Down Marker On Dakota Access Pipeline

Seeking to protect North Dakota’s sovereignty, support good paying jobs and bolster tax revenue, state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has written to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers laying down a marker on the future of the Dakota Access Pipeline ahead of a key federal court date on Friday.

Stenehjem is defending the pipeline and his state’s right to have a direct role in any discussions governing its future operations, which are the subject of an April 9 court hearing. The Biden administration will tell a federal judge how it plans to address a U.S. Circuit Court ruling that scrapped a key environmental permit for the project.

Stenehjem’s letter warns that any federal action from the administration and the Army Corps that affects the continued operation of the pipeline must be done first in direct and immediate consultation with the state:

“The Corps, and any other federal agency that may be involved in any major federal agency action that has the potential for the shut down or curtailment of the DAPL must consult with North Dakota on a government-to-government basis in accordance with North Dakota’s sovereign status under the United States Constitution and laws of the United States, the National Environmental Protection Act (“NEPA”) and in recognition of the importance of the DAPL to North Dakota and its citizens.

At issue is the permit the Army Corps issued that allowed the pipeline to cross under a federal reservoir in the state, which anti-pipeline activists claim violated the NEPA review process. However, in the four years that the Dakota Access Pipeline has been in service, there have been no safety or operational issues.

Stenehjem argues that if the Biden administration sides with the anti-oil and natural gas and anti-pipeline activists abandoning its support of the pipeline, that amounts to a major federal action. Operating since 2017, the Dakota Access Pipeline stretches nearly 1,200 miles across four states bringing American-produced Bakken oil from North Dakota to refineries in Illinois, which in turn sends energy to the Gulf Coast.

Stenehjem’s letter continues:

“At a minimum, as required by NEPA, the Corps must provide North Dakota with transparent, early, meaningful, substantive, and ongoing consultation with respect to any major federal action or decision that may alter the status quo of operations of the DAPL (and there can be no doubt that a decision to shut down the DAPL would be a major federal agency action).”

Thousands of jobs in North Dakota are at stake, along with billions of dollars critical to supporting the state’s economy and government, as Stenehjem highlights:

“The State of North Dakota is vitally concerned about the future of the Dakota Access Pipeline (“DAPL”), the construction and operation of which has been authorized by the U.S. Army of Engineers (as well as other Federal agencies) for over four years. The Corps has also repeatedly defended DAPL for years as the safest and most environmentally friendly way to promote the public interest by transporting oil from North Dakota to distant refineries, safely generating many thousands of good paying jobs and contributing billions of dollars in tax revenues essential to the state of North Dakota.”

Unfortunately, the cancellation of pipeline projects elsewhere in the United States has led to increased costs for consumers and businesses, worse environmental outcomes, and diminished American energy security.

As Energy In Depth has noted before, New York and New Jersey have blocked the construction of the Northeast Supply Enhancement, which would bring natural gas from the Marcellus Shale into the country’s largest metropolis, constricting much-needed supply during cold winters. In fact, a Manhattan Institute report explained that “Utility rates in New York are already among the highest in the country—and shutting off access to more natural gas is only going to make things worse,” while a lack of natural gas “will likely result in increased use of heating fuel oil, which means increased air pollution and carbon-dioxide emissions.”

Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline is denying American refiners much needed oil for their operations and is already prompting imports from foreign countries like Russia, undermining U.S. energy security and foreign policy.

These are flashing red warning signs to the Biden administration ahead of Friday’s court hearing and forecast the negative consequences that would surely emerge if it chooses to curtail or cancel the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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