Lawyer: ‘No timeframe’ for new Dakota Access environmental review

Lawyer: ‘No timeframe’ for new Dakota Access environmental review
© Greg Nash

A government lawyer said Wednesday that officials don’t know how long it will take them to redo an environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline as ordered by a federal judge last week. 

Matthew Marinelli, an Army Corps of Engineers lawyer, said he had “no timeframe” for completing that review, and that he would have an updated schedule when he files more paperwork with the court on July 17. 

Asked by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg if he could estimate what the timeline might be, Marinelli said, “I’m very hesitant to do that.”

“The Corps is just starting to grapple with the issues the court has identified,” he said.

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Boasberg ruled last week that parts of the government’s environmental assessment of the 1,170-mile Dakota Access pipeline were inadequate. He ordered the Army Corps to reconsider the project’s impact on local tribes and their hunting and fishing rights and whether permitting decisions around the pipeline were fair to tribe members. 

He did not order oil to stop flowing through the pipeline, which came online earlier this month after a lengthy legal battle and amid public protests from environmentalists and tribal rights activists. 

Instead, he asked the government, Dakota Access developers and local tribes to plead their case on that question in a series of legal briefs due to the court this summer, starting next month.

Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice lawyer representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the case, said he expects there will be a decision on the question of the pipeline’s operations by September.

Lawyers for the tribes opposed to the project said Wednesday they worry the government and Dakota Access developers will quickly complete the required environmental reviews of the project without allowing them to comment on the matter. 

“We want to be involved in the process,” Hasselman said. “We want to be consulted.”

Hasselman and other tribes’ lawyers said they would consider a more extensive legal fight if the process didn’t involve public comments on the project.

Marinelli said the Army Corps’ legal brief due in July would outline how the government intends to complete its review, and Boasberg said he expects opponents will get to have a say.

“I expect the Corps to follow the law and follow the procedures that apply,” he said.