Lawyer: No timetable for allowing Dakota Access construction

Lawyer: No timetable for allowing Dakota Access construction
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A government lawyer said Monday that he didn’t know when the Army Corps of Engineers will issue a construction easement for the Dakota Access pipeline, a move mandated by an order from President Trump. 

Trump ordered the Army Corps last week to issue an easement allowing construction on the most controversial stretch of the 1,170-mile $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. But it's not clear when that easement will be issued.

“The Corps and the Army are continuing to make decisions under the order,” attorney Matthew Marinelli told a federal judge on Monday. 

“I can’t give you a timetable for the completion of that decision-making process.”

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The Obama administration declined to issue the easement after the Standing Rock Sioux tribe warned that the pipeline threatens its drinking water supply in North Dakota. The tribe sued over the pipeline, with their concerns sparking national protests against the project.

Obama officials said they would conduct an environmental impact assessment of the pipeline, something that could delay the mostly complete project for years. 

Trump issued orders Tuesday calling for the completion of both the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines, expediting both. Marinelli said senior Army Corps officials were meeting on Monday to discuss how to follow that order. 

“My clients are actively working toward responding to that presidential memorandum,” he said.

Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice lawyer representing the Standing Rock Sioux, said Monday that the tribe is worried it might not have enough time to ask a court to block the project’s operation once the Army Corps issues the easement.  

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ordered the Corps, the tribe and Dakota Access developers back to court next Monday for an update on both the easement timeline and how long it would take developers to complete the project once the easement is issued.