Pipeline company seeks Federal Court OK to proceed

Published 8:08 am Wednesday, November 16, 2016

CANNON BALL, N.D.  — The company building the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline has asked a federal judge’s permission to circumvent President Barack Obama’s administration and move ahead with a disputed section of the project in North Dakota, as opponents held protests across the country against the pipeline.

Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners and a subsidiary asked the court on Tuesday to let them lay pipe under a Missouri River reservoir, a plan the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says threatens its drinking water and cultural sites. The Army Corps of Engineers said Monday it needs more time to study the impact of the plan.

While President-elect Donald Trump, a pipeline supporter, likely would greenlight the project when he takes office in January, the company is trying to win federal approval — or a court order — to allow it to go forward sooner. The delay has already cost nearly $100 million, the company said in court documents, “and further delay in the consideration of this case would add millions of dollars more each month in costs which cannot be recovered.”

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In a statement Tuesday, the company blamed the Obama administration for “political interference” in the pipeline review process.

The Army Corps referred a request for comment to the Justice Department, which declined comment.

Protests were being held Tuesday across the country, from California to Vermont. Activists called for demonstrations at Army Corps of Engineers offices and at banks financing the pipeline construction.

More than two dozen people were arrested near Mandan, North Dakota, after a group of about 400 protesters put a truck and tree branches on BNSF Railway tracks near a pipeline work staging area and tried to set it on fire, Morton County sheriff’s spokesman Rob Keller said.

“They had a rope soaked with kerosene,” he said. “A (Highway Patrol) trooper with an extinguisher doused it so it wouldn’t light.”

Trains were delayed three hours, railroad spokeswoman Amy McBeth said. Officers in riot gear used pepper spray and in one instance a stun gun against protesters who refused to leave.

Mandan is about 50 miles north of a camp where hundreds of protesters have gathered in recent months to oppose the pipeline. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental attorney and president of the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, which seeks to protect watersheds worldwide, visited the camp Tuesday, speaking out against the arrests of protesters and a project he says will benefit billionaires and not the American people.

“What they are doing here is a crime, an environmental crime, and there are real victims,” he said.

In Columbus, Ohio, police reported an activist blocked traffic by handcuffing himself under a vehicle at a downtown intersection. In Montpelier, Vermont, more than 100 people gathered outside a bank, chanting, singing songs and holding signs saying “Water is Life” and “Standing With Standing Rock.”