A judge rules that rushing approval for the Dakota Access Pipeline violated the law.
U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg issued a ruling Wednesday that deemed the previous environmental review process inadequate. His decision comes in response to a legal challenge filed by Standing Rock Sioux in February, after President Trump greenlit the pipeline shortly after his inauguration.
Specifically, the judge said the Army Corps of Engineers, which must approve pipelines that cross water, “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.” According to Jan Hasselman, the Earthjustice attorney representing the tribe, the ruling represents possibly the first time that a federal judge has dinged the Army Corps for not considering environmental justice concerns.
The Army Corps must now do additional review. Hasselman is unsure what form that will take. “Do they just try to paper this over with a supplemental or revised environmental assessment, which is likely to lead to more litigation?” he says. “Or do they go back to the environmental impact statement process?”
The tribe has argued for months that the pipeline would endanger their drinking water and ancestral lands. Since oil began flowing in March, the pipeline has already leaked several times. Oil will continue flowing for now, but Standing Rock Sioux Chair Dave Archambault II said the tribe “will ask the Court to shut down the pipeline operations immediately” while it undergoes further environmental review. A ruling could come on that demand in as soon as six weeks.
Related: Read Grist’s investigation of the paramilitary tactics used to track and target pipeline opponents.