Oil to keep flowing in Dakota line while legal battle continues

FILE PHOTO: Construction equipment sits near a Dakota Access Pipeline construction site off County Road 135 near the town of Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. on October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Josh Morgan/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Oil will continue to flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline through the summer while authorities conduct additional review of the environmental impact, after a judge on Wednesday ordered more hearings in coming months.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg in Washington ruled in favor of Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who said more environmental analysis of the Dakota Access line should have been carried out. The tribes had said the 1,170-mile (1,880 km) line violates their hunting, fishing and environmental rights.

On Wednesday, Boasberg set out a schedule of hearings that will decide what will happen to the line while additional review is completed.

A lawyer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for environmental review, would not estimate when asked by Boasberg how long additional review would take. The judge could still order the line to be shut at a later date following a series of hearings scheduled through the summer.

“Our view has been that the pipeline should be shut down,” said Jan Hasselmann, attorney for the tribes.

Energy Transfer Partners LP ETP.N built the $3.8 billion pipeline to move crude from the Northern Plains to the Midwest and then on to the Gulf of Mexico. The line runs from western North Dakota into Patoka, Illinois, where it hooks up with another line to refiners in the Gulf of Mexico.

ETP said on Wednesday it was “pleased with the judge’s decision” for pipeline operations to continue while the process “unfolds.”

The Native American tribes have been protesting the line’s construction for more than a year. The line finally went into service in June.

Reporting by Pete Schroeder in Washington; Editing by David Gaffen and Matthew Lewis