District Court Judge orders oil-spill response plan for Dakota Access Pipeline
Judge James E. Boasberg has ordered the creation of an oil-spill response plan by the Army Corps of Engineers, Dakota Access LLC and affected Native American tribes. The plan is to be applied no later than April 2018.
The opinion also requires the completion of an independent compliance audit of the pipeline. The pipeline runs underneath Lake Oahe, which borders the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Dakota Access is ordered to consult with the Tribes in the selection of the third-party auditor.
Describing the rationale for his decision and addressing defendants’ concerns, Boasberg reiterated his intention to maintain the status quo between the Dakota Access, the Corps of Engineers and the Tribes. He also emphasised the need for information to be made available both to the court and the public to increase transparency.
As a part of the conditions, the court also ordered Dakota Access to complete bi-monthly reports of “any repairs or incidents occurring at the segment of the pipeline crossing Lake Oahe.”
The judge highlighted the need for scrutiny of oil pipelines, citing the leaking of 210,000 gallons (955,000 litres) of oil from the Keystone pipeline this year: ‘the Court is not suggesting that a similar leak is imminent at Lake Oahe, the fact remains that there is an inherent risk [of spillage] with any pipeline”
Last week the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a Corrective Action Order to TransCanada to address the spill. The Administration concluded that the damage to the line was characteristic “of mechanical damage from original construction”. The report accompanying the order said that it was a weight installed in 2008, designed to manage buoyancy issues created by water, which caused the leak.
The CAO requires TransCanada to operate the pipeline at a 20% pressure reduction when operation resumes and submit quarterly reports to the director of the administration illustrating their compliance with the order and repairs to the pipeline.