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The Dakota Access Pipeline

A young supporter of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, outside the courthouse in Washington, D.C., on September 6, 2016.

A young supporter of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, outside the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on September 6, 2016, where an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent further destruction of the Tribe’s sacred sites was heard.

Michael Kennedy for Earthjustice

What's at Stake

The Army Corps’ approval of the permit allows the oil company to dig the pipeline under the Missouri River just upstream of the reservation and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s drinking water supply.

An oil spill at this site would constitute an existential threat to the Tribe’s culture and way of life.

Case Overview

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, represented by Earthjustice, filed a lawsuit on July 27, 2016, against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for violating the National Historic Preservation Act and other laws, after the agency issued final permits for a massive crude oil pipeline stretching from North Dakota to Illinois.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington D.C., says the Corps effectively wrote off the Tribe’s concerns and ignored the pipeline’s impacts to sacred sites and culturally important landscapes. The pipeline travels through the Tribe’s ancestral lands and passes within half a mile of its current reservation.

The Corps’ approval of the permit allows the oil company to dig the pipeline under the Missouri River just upstream of the reservation and the Tribe’s drinking water supply. An oil spill at this site would constitute an existential threat to the Tribe’s culture and way of life.

The Dakota Access Pipeline project, also known as Bakken Oil Pipeline, would extend 1,168 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, crossing through communities, farms, tribal land, sensitive natural areas and wildlife habitat. The pipeline would carry crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois where it will link with another pipeline that will transport the oil to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite objections by the Standing Rock Sioux and other organizations, construction of the pipeline began.

An in-depth look at the story of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
An interactive recap of the Standing Rock and Dakota Access Pipeline story so far. See the story

A temporary restraining order requesting to halt construction of the pipeline has been filed. A hearing on the temporary restraining order was held at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on August 24, 2016. A decision denying the temporary restraining order was issued on September 9. But later that day, the Obama administration announced that it was halting construction on the Dakota Access pipeline.

Citing the concerns raised in the lawsuit brought by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a joint statement by the Department of Justice, Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior said in part: “This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects."

In 2010, a single pipeline spill poured 1,000,000 gallons of toxic bitumen crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The cleanup cost over one billion dollars and significant contamination remains. And in January of 2015, more than 50,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River in Montana. It was the second such spill in that area since 2011.

Case Updates

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