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Overnight Energy: Judge issues short-term halt to ND pipeline work

TEMPORARY AND LIMITED: A federal judge on Tuesday issued a temporary restraining order against construction work on a North Dakota pipeline project this week.

The ruling prevents developers from doing clearing work on a section of the Dakota Access Pipeline route between a state highway and an area west of a lake in the state. The ruling is less than the tribes suing against the pipeline had wanted, and its practical impact is minimal: the restraining order expires when the judge rules on a broader lawsuit to block pipeline construction this week, and developers say they weren't even planning to do work on the area in question this week anyway.

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But the ruling is the latest in a burgeoning legal fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,700-mile pipeline to deliver Bakken oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe objects to the project, saying it threatens environmental and cultural sites in the state, and that federal regulators didn't do enough to consult them on the pipeline route.

William Leone, Dakota Access' lawyer, warned a restraining order could back up other construction work continuing along the pipeline route.

But the company otherwise agreed to the ruling, so long as it didn't reflect that the company was at fault, on the condition tribal protesters in North Dakota back away from the construction site.

"There is a principle at issue and it's an important principle for my clients," he said.

The ruling comes after a tense weekend of protests, in which the tribe alleges Dakota Access security used pepper spray and attack dogs against protesters and the company says the protesters hurt several guards.

Jan Hasselman, the tribe's attorney, said Standing Rock has no influence over those protests.

"The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is not attacking anybody," he said.

"They are working tirelessly to oppose violence, which does not advance its case, and violence from all sides."

Read more about the decision here and the tribe's complaint here.

Pipeline giants to merge: Amid the high-profile fight over Dakota Access, two of North America's largest pipeline companies are planning to merge, creating the largest energy infrastructure company on the continent.

Enbridge Inc. said it is planning to acquire Spectra Energy Corp. for $28 billion in an all-stock deal.

Enbridge operates about 33,000 miles of pipe, specializing in bringing oil sands from Canada to refiners on the United States's Gulf of Mexico coast. Spectra mainly moves natural gas to the East Coast.

"Over the last two years, we've been focused on identifying opportunities that would extend and diversify our asset base and sources of growth beyond 2019," Al Monaco, president of Enbridge, said in a statement Tuesday.

Greg Ebel, president of Spectra, said the deal "creates what we believe will be the best, most diversified energy infrastructure company in North America, if not the world."

Read more here.

HOUSE VOTES TO MOVE OFFSHORE SALES ONLINE: The House voted Tuesday to move offshore drilling lease sales onto the internet within a year.

The bill from Reps. Garret Graves (R-La.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) would do away with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) in-person auctions, in which bidding companies must submit paper bids that are read aloud.

It passed Tuesday by voice vote with no objections stated on the House floor.

"What this bill is designed to do is to bring us into the 21st century, to allow for potential bidders to go online to broaden access, to allow for the taxpayers' resource, for the American public's resource, to have more bidders, to have more competition, to ultimately make sure that the full value of that resource is realized by taxpayers," Graves said.

"This simply puts it online. It simply allows for better access to information," he said.

The bill would also thwart environmental activists who have protested at recent auction events to try to shut them down.

That isn't the stated goal of the legislation, but the Center for Biological Diversity nonetheless objected to the bill.

"Hiding offshore fossil fuel auctions from public scrutiny won't stop the climate justice movement. People are demanding climate action and protection of coastal communities and wildlife," Blake Kopcho, an organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

The Obama administration, which started livestreaming lease sales and closing them to the public, objected to some parts of the bill, including the one-year timeline.

Read more here.

GREENS SPEND $860,000 ON NEVADA SENATE RACE: The League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund launched a new advertising campaign against Republican Nevada Senate candidate Joe Heck.

The ads say Heck's election would put at risk the more than 25,000 jobs in Nevada in the solar, wind and geothermal industries, due to his allegiance to the oil industry.

"Joe Heck's taken hundreds of thousands in big oil money, and voted their way, protecting billions in tax breaks for big oil, threatening Nevada's solar economy," the ad's voiceover says.

"Twenty-five thousand jobs at risk, because Joe Heck's in big oil's pocket."

With the Tuesday campaign, the League of Conservation Voters and its affiliated Victory Fund have spent $3 million on the Nevada campaign.

LCV has endorsed Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto for the seat being left by Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Memo: Democrats scorn GOP warnings on impeachment Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia The fight begins over first primary of 2024 presidential contest MORE (D).

Welcome back to Overnight Energy. Timothy Cama (@timothy_cama) and Devin Henry (@dhenry) here to guide you through the next four weeks of Congress, elections, energy and environment news.

We hope the August recess was kind to you. As for us, Devin went to the Bakken and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and Tim saw both coal country and natural gas country in his native Pennsylvania.

Tomorrow in The Hill...

Congress returns with a long to-do list between now and the end of the year. Among the items on its plate: finalizing a drawn-out effort to reform federal energy laws. Tomorrow in The Hill: a look at where things stand.  

Lawmakers are also being pushed to take action to help Flint, Mich., recover from its drinking water crisis. In tomorrow's The Hill, we'll also look at the status of the Senate's $220 million aid package for Flint and other cities with drinking water contamination.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY I: West Virginia's Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) Manchin'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time GOP lawmakers introduce resolution to censure Trump over Capitol riot MORE (D), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time GOP senator: Trump rhetoric on election fraud 'certainly not helpful' in Georgia Senate GOP opposition grows to objecting to Electoral College results MORE (R) and Rep. David McKinleyDavid Bennett McKinleyEnergy secretary says pipeline setbacks pose national security issue MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill MORE (R) will speak at a National Press Club event to push for passage of the Miners Protection Act, which would put new funds into a pension fund for coal miners.

ON TAP WEDNESDAY II: The House Energy and Commerce Committee's subpanel on energy and power will look at the history of the Federal Power Act, which governs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The subcommittee will hear from numerous stakeholders, including former FERC commissioners.

Rest of Wednesday's agenda...

The House Natural Resources Committee will meet to vote on four bills in its jurisdiction.

Join The Hill on Wednesday, September 14 for "Preparing for the Next Disaster: A Policy Discussion on Community Resilience," featuring Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), and Timothy W. Manning, Deputy Administrator for Protection and National Preparedness at FEMA. Topics of discussion include preparedness efforts to increase community resilience and the role of federal, state & local government in pre-disaster mitigation. RSVP here.

AROUND THE WEB:

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is set to back a plan empowering 1,000 publically owned energy providers, as well as support a ban on fracking, BBC News reports.

New York is considering raising its gasoline-blending limit to 15 percent ethanol, FuelFix reports.

A mining company is putting $90 million into a plan to start two new coal mines next year, one each in West Virginia and Virginia, the Associated Press reports.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out stories from Tuesday and this weekend ...

-House votes for online lease sales for offshore drilling

-Judge issues restraining order against some ND pipeline construction

-Pipeline giants plan $28b merger

-Greens put $860,000 into Nevada Senate race ad campaign

-Tribe asks for restraining order against pipeline project

-Al Gore is 2016's missing man

-Late-term Obama, GOP clash over monuments

-Midwest earthquake felt from Missouri to north Texas

-Scientists to name new fish species after Obama

-Obama formally joins US into climate pact

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com; and Devin Henry, dhenry@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama@dhenry@thehill