U.S. judge allows Dakota pipeline to run as Army conducts study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Oil can keep flowing through the contested Dakota Access Pipeline while the Army Corps of Engineers conducts a new environmental review of the duct through next April, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled the court would not void a permit that has allowed Energy Transfer Partners LP’s pipeline that runs from North Dakota to Illinois to transport crude oil for months. Oil was loaded into the pipeline in May and it has shipped crude since June 1.

Later in June, Boasberg ordered the Army Corps to conduct further environmental reviews of the pipeline, saying it failed to adequately consider any harm of a potential oil spill to the fishing and hunting rights of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

That pushed the Standing Rock tribe in August to urge the court to immediately shut the line, saying its members were exposed to the very risks that the Army Corps was studying.

The decision about the 1,170 mile (1,880 km) Dakota Access pipeline was a boost for President Donald Trump’s policy of making the United States “energy dominant” by maximizing the production of fossil fuels for domestic use and for shipping to allies.

The pipeline is opposed by environmentalists and the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes.

Standing Rock had sued the Army Corps in July 2016 over the pipeline, arguing the line could contaminate its water source, the Missouri River.

Boasberg wrote in the ruling that shutting the line would not cause major economic harm, as the company had claimed.

But voiding the permit allowing the pipeline to ship oil would not be the “appropriate remedy” because there was a possibility the Army Corps will be able to justify its earlier decision not to complete a full environmental review, he wrote.

If the tribe is still not happy after the environmental review is completed, it will have an opportunity to address whether the Army Corps fulfilled its duties, Boasberg wrote.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Mike Faith said he was disappointed that the tribe’s concerns had not been heard. “This pipeline represents a threat to the livelihoods and health of our Nation every day it is operational,” Faith said.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Peter Cooney and Matthew Lewis