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Pipeline oil, and protests, keep flowing at Dakota Access pipeline

Judge orders more hearings on Dakota Access review

A man bangs a drum Nov. 18, 2016, while police stand guard during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, N.D. (REUTERS/Stephanie Keith)
A man bangs a drum Nov. 18, 2016, while police stand guard during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, N.D. (REUTERS/Stephanie Keith)
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WASHINGTON — Oil will continue to flow through the underground Dakota Access pipeline during the summer while authorities conduct additional review of the environmental impact, after a judge Wednesday ordered more court hearings.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg in Washington ruled largely in favor of the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who said more environmental analysis of the Dakota Access line should have been carried out.

The tribes said the 1,170-mile pipeline that starts in North Dakota and ends at a hub in Illinois — crossing 18 counties in Iowa along the way — violates their hunting, fishing and environmental rights.

On Wednesday, Boasberg set out a schedule of hearings that will decide what will happen to the line while additional review is completed.

The pipeline began commercially shipping crude oil June 1.

An attorney for the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for the environmental review in question, would not estimate when asked by Boasberg how long an additional review would take. The judge could still order the line to be shut at a later date following a series of hearings scheduled through the summer.

“Our view has been that the pipeline should be shut down,” said Jan Hasselmann, attorney for the tribes.

Energy Transfer Partners of Texas built the $3.8 billion pipeline to move crude from the Northern Plains to the Midwest, where it would then be shipped in an existing line to refiners along the Gulf of Mexico.

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The company said Wednesday it was “pleased with the judge’s decision” for operations to continue while the process “unfolds.”

The Native American tribes have been protesting the line’s construction for more than a year, notably near Cannon Ball, N.D.

Opponents argued that the route threatens tribal drinking water supplies where it crosses the Missouri River and disrupts sacred lands.

Thousands of protesters from around the world gathered at a “spirit camp” near the river crossing, many enduring a bitter Plains winter before disbanding when the disputed river segment was bored underground.

Earlier this month, Iowa regulators scolded the pipeline developers after they allowed documents showing they had the required $25 million worth of insurance to lapse.

Additionally, environmentalists asked the state regulators to shut down the pipeline pending the new environmental review.

The Iowa Utilities Board has not acted on that motion. An agenda for its monthly meeting Thursday in Des Moines shows it is not scheduled.

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