Overnight Energy: Judge refuses to stop Dakota Access construction

Overnight Energy: Judge refuses to stop Dakota Access construction
© Greg Nash

DAKOTA ACCESS KEEPS MOVING FORWARD: A federal judge on Monday denied a tribe's request to immediately halt construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

The Cheyenne River Sioux tribe of South Dakota says allowing an oil pipeline to run underneath Lake Oahe on the Missouri River would tarnish the lake's sacred status with the tribe.

The tribe asked federal judge James Boasberg to freeze construction on the segment of the pipeline that runs under the lake, but he denied the request on Monday, saying there is no threat to the lake's water during the construction phase, before oil runs through it.

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Boasberg vowed to rule on the tribe's religious challenge to Dakota Access before oil begins pumping through the pipeline. He set a hearing on the matter for later this month.

"If you are worried it's going to flow before I rule on the injunction, that's not going to happen," he told the tribe's lawyers.

Also Monday, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said it would ask Boasberg to formally rule on the validity of the pipeline's permitting process.

To this point, Dakota Access opponents have sought to delay construction of the project, but Standing Rock lawyer Jan Hasselman said the judge should rule on whether the project itself is even valid under federal environmental laws.

"Construction has started, we are going to try to get these issues resolved before oil can flow, and so we're moving very aggressively to put the legal questions in front of the judge and get a determination as soon as we can," Hasselman told reporters after the hearing.

Boasberg said a decision on that question could come after the pipeline is built and begins operation.

Read more here.

TRUMP DOJ BACKS EPA IN MINE SPILL SUIT: President Trump's administration is asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency stemming from a mine waste spill in a Colorado river in 2015.

The Justice Department filed a brief Monday saying the EPA, as a government agency, has sovereign immunity because its workers and contractors were trying to clean up the abandoned Gold King Mine when it caused the spill.

That argument matches one put forth by the Obama administration, which in January concluded sovereign immunity prevented the EPA from paying out $1.2 billion in claims stemming from the incident.

Republicans and government representatives near the spill site slammed the Obama administration for that decision, saying its response to the incident was inadequate. But the Trump administration supported the decision in a filing with a federal court in New Mexico on Monday.

Read more here.

TRUMP CANCELS OHIO BILL SIGNING: The White House has cancelled Trump's planned trip to Ohio to sign into law a bill undoing an Obama-era coal mining rule.

The White House never formally announced Trump's trip to Ohio, though the administration issued a notice last week suggesting he would stop in Vienna, Ohio, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

While he was there, Trump was set to sign into law a Congressional Review Act resolution undoing the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule to protect waterways from the effects of coal mining, according to the report.

But the White House cancelled the trip as of Monday, making it at least the second planned excursion the Trump administration has nixed since he took office.

There is no word on when Trump will sign the Stream Protection Rule resolution, or a separate one ending a financial disclosure rule for mining and drilling firms.

Read more here.

DEMS WANT TO PROBE ICAHN: Senate Democrats want to know much more about how billionaire investor Carl Icahn is influencing ethanol policy.

Icahn is both a special, unpaid adviser to President Trump, and the majority owner of fuel refiner CVR Energy, which stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars if the EPA tweaks the so-called "point of obligation" rules for the ethanol standard.

The Democrats, led by Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation EPA extends comment period on controversial science transparency rule House easily passes prison reform bill backed by Trump MORE (R.I.), think that could be a big conflict of interest.

Details that have been reported about Icahn and his role in the administration "suggest a conflict of interest between Mr. Icahn and advice he gave President Trump on the nomination of [Scott] Pruitt" to lead the EPA the senators wrote.

"They further suggest he will be actively working to change RFS [renewable fuel standards] regulations to benefit CVR. And with a sprawling business empire and potentially unlimited portfolio in the administration to address 'strangling regulations,' Mr. Icahn's role presents an unacceptable risk of further real or potential conflicts of interest absent immediate and thorough steps to address them."

Read more here.

ON TAP TUESDAY: Acting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Chery LaFleur will speak at a morning session at the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners' winter meeting.

AROUND THE WEB:

The water level at Lake Oroville in California is falling, but evacuation orders are still in place downstream due to a possibility that corrosion could cause the lake's emergency spillway to fail, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection approved the permit application Monday for the Mariner East 2 pipeline, planned to carry natural gas liquids across the state, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

The Washington Post examines a simmering debate in Greenland about a proposed uranium mine in the country.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Monday and the weekend ...

-Trump admin wants Gold King Mine spill case dismissed
-Judge refuses to block work on Dakota Access pipeline
-Dems probe Trump adviser Icahn's role in ethanol policy
-Trump cancels reported bill signing in Ohio
-Automakers ask Trump to reconsider car emissions standards
-Week ahead: GOP looks at 'modernizing' environmental laws
-GOP begins public land overhaul

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