A federal judge has postponed a hearing on the Dakota Access pipeline to give the Biden administration more time to decide how it wants to handle the embattled project.
The delay means questions about the fate of the oil pipeline from Energy Transfer LP will remain unanswered for now. American Indian tribes, environmentalists, and many Democrats are pressing President Joe Biden to shutter Dakota Access after an appeals court last month affirmed that a key easement was issued in violation of federal law.
Lawyers for the Army Corps of Engineers were scheduled to appear Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to discuss how the agency plans to address the pipeline’s lapsed easement. The hearing would have marked the first clear signal of the Biden administration’s views on Dakota Access.
But Judge James E. Boasberg on Tuesday granted a request to delay the hearing after government lawyers said they needed more time to brief new administration officials on the case. The parties will instead meet April 9.
No Brief Filed
The government’s request noted that Dakota Access opposed the delay, but the company didn’t take up the court’s invitation to file a brief expressing its views Tuesday.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Dakota Access challengers didn’t object to the postponement. In a statement Tuesday, Earthjustice lawyer Jan E. Hasselman, who represents Standing Rock, reiterated the tribe’s argument that Dakota Access should be shut down.
“The Biden administration has centered climate solutions, environmental justice, and Tribal sovereignty among its core values, and all three are at stake with the decision on the Dakota Access pipeline,” he said in an email. “The courts have confirmed that the pipeline’s permits were granted illegally, and if the administration wants to follow the rule of law, it will have to shut down the pipeline while an EIS is prepared.”
Dakota Access ships crude from North Dakota to an Illinois oil hub, and has been in service since 2017.
The case is Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. Army Corps of Engineers, D.D.C., No. 1:16-cv-01534, 2/9/21.