It’s been a big couple of days for environmental groups opposed to oil and gas pipeline construction in sensitive areas. Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, the companies planning to build an $8 billion natural gas pipeline that would tunnel below a portion of the Appalachian Trail announced they were withdrawing their plan and will not proceed with the project, even after the Supreme Court recently ruled they could go ahead with the build.
The companies cited delays and cost increases of the project during litigation as significant hurdles that threatened the profitability of the Atlantic Coast pipeline.
Many environmental groups were adamantly opposed to the pipeline, which initially was blocked by a lower federal court because sufficient environmental reviews hadn’t been conducted.
“This is tremendous news for West Virginians, Virginians, and North Carolinians who deserve clean air, safe water and protection from climate change,” Gillian Giannetti, an attorney with the NRDC, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, nearly simultaneously, a federal judge at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, James Boasberg, ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline must be emptied and shut off while the US Army Corps of Engineers carries out a much more thorough environmental review than had previously been submitted.
Back in 2017, the pipeline began carrying oil over 1,000 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, some of which crosses the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s land. Boasberg says the Army Corps of Engineers failed to properly address the potential damage of oil spills, the very argument the Tribe had made during heavy protests during the pipeline’s construction.
“Fearing severe environmental consequences, American Indian Tribes on nearby reservations have sought for several years to invalidate federal permits allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil under the lake,” Judge Boasberg wrote in the ruling. “Today they finally achieve that goal — at least for the time being.”
“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” said Mike Faith, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”
While the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project has been canceled, the Dakota Access Pipeline is merely halted for the time it will take to carry out a more stringent environmental review. It’s estimated that will take more than a year. The “seriousness of the Corps’ deficiencies outweighs the negative effects of halting the oil flow for the thirteen months,” Boasberg said.
The Dakota Access Pipeline must be emptied within a month, according to the ruling.
Top photo: Tony Webster