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Dakota Access Keeps Pumping; Black Snakers Speak with Forked Tongue

The Dakota Access pipeline was supposed to be shut down by yesterday, but Energy Transfer Partners has managed to make the stay it won against that court order last month stick indefinitely, pending further review of their illegally issued permit to operate:

A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday said the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) does not have to be shut and drained per a lower court order, but a legal battle continued over the permit that allowed the line to be finished.

U.S. regulatory officials may still need to issue another environmental assessment for DAPL before deciding if the 570,000-barrel-per-day oil pipeline can keep operating, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said.

…The district court must make additional findings before the pipeline can be shut, said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux [Laila Kearney, Devika Krishna Kumar, and David Gaffen, “U.S. Court Allows Dakota Access Oil Pipeline to Stay Open, but Permit Status Unclear,” Reuters, 2020.08.05].

Energy Transfer Partners won this stay in part because it got its partners to contradict themselves in court. Companies shipping Bakken oil via Dakota Access are telling the court the pipeline is vital infrastructure while telling their investors they could get along fine without it:

…on recent earnings calls and fillings, companies including Marathon Petroleum Corp and Continental Resources Inc, the largest Bakken producer, said they have plenty of alternatives should the line be shut.

“It would not have a major impact on moving all of our production if DAPL were shut in, and the cost to us would be a few dollars per barrel,” said John Hess, chief executive officer of Hess Corp, which transports about 55,000 bpd of oil on DAPL, on an earnings call last week.

However, in an April court filing, the company said it “does not have other practical options to transport the crude oil that is currently being shipped on DAPL.”

A source familiar with the company’s thinking said Hess has since found alternatives for shipping its oil [Laila Kearney and Devika Krishna Kumar, “Dakota Access Oil Pipeline Users Downplay Need for Line to Investors,” Reuters via KELO Radio, 2020.08.05].

If Big Oil is willing to tell opposing stories to the courts and to the people who give them money, how can we trust Big Oil to tell the truth in any regulatory setting about the environmental impact of its pipelines and other operations?


  1. Kari 2020-08-06

    Frustrating. Big oil is a dying dinosaur, they are going to claw, kick, and swing their tails harder and harder as their outdated energy continues to slowly die. In the meantime we watch, painfully.

  2. Donald Pay 2020-08-06

    That last question is the key to what’s wrong with America. No one holds these crooks responsible for anything. We even elected a crook to the highest office in the land. We truly are the Lying Crooks of America.

  3. jerry 2020-08-06

    Billy Barr proves there is no law other than the checkbook in the United States. Look no further than the corrupted Wall Street that taxpayers are pumping billions into to keep it afloat. The money presses are cooking but we cannot seem to find the money to provide the shelter for our displaced workers or healthcare.

    When is infrastructure week?

  4. grudznick 2020-08-06

    You fellows all know what my good friend Bob says.

    Politics is only about who gets to do what to whom for how long. Hand me two doobies from that doobie bong, man.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-08-08

    With a little less effort than we put into our World War II mobilization, we could be entirely off fossil fuels by 2035:

    …it’s possible to eliminate 70 percent to 80 percent of US carbon emissions by 2035 through rapid deployment of existing electrification technologies, with little-to-no carbon capture and sequestration. Doing so would slash US energy demand by around half, save consumers money, and keep the country on a 1.5° pathway without requiring particular behavior changes. Everyone could still have their same cars and houses — they would just need to be electric [David Roberts, “How to Drive Fossil Fuels out of the US Economy, Quickly,” Vox, 2020.08.06].

    We could make Dakota Access obsolete in 15 years, create 15 million to 20 million new jobs (that’s in the Vox article, too: read it!), reduce our energy costs, reduce pollution, and save the planet. Or we could just idly by while Energy Transfer Partners makes more money.

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