Dakota Access pipeline developers scored temporary relief from federal appellate judges who agreed to briefly freeze a lower court order directing the oil project to shut down next month.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday issued an administrative stay—a short-term procedural move that prevents the shutdown order from taking effect while the appeals court considers arguments from Dakota Access, the Trump administration, and Indigenous advocates on whether to lock in longer-term relief for the pipeline.
The stay is expected to last a matter of days or weeks while the D.C. Circuit decides whether to require the pipeline to halt operations, or allow it to continue moving oil during an appeals process expected to last many months.
The Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes have until 4 p.m. Monday to file briefs at the circuit court, and replies are due July 23. Judges Judith W. Rogers, Thomas B. Griffith, and Cornelia T.L. Pillard issued the order.
The appeals court’s involvement comes a week after a federal district court ordered developer Energy Transfer LP to empty the pipeline of oil while the Army Corps of Engineers completes a court-ordered environmental review expected to last into 2021. Dakota Access has been in service for three years.
Company lawyers told the D.C. Circuit shutting the pipeline would cause “unprecedented irreparable injury, including billions of dollars in unrecoverable costs and lost revenue and thousands unemployed.” Energy Transfer last week said it hadn’t taken any steps to close the pipeline.
Federal government lawyers are also pushing the D.C. Circuit to sideline the lower court’s order, saying the district judge exceeded his authority in ordering the shutdown.
Energy Transfer could take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court if the D.C. Circuit ultimately declines to issue a long-term stay of the district court’s shutdown order.
The case is Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. Army Corps of Engineers, D.C. Cir., No. 20-5197, 7/14/20.