Judge denies Dakota Access initial request to stay pipeline order

Dakota Access pipeline protest
People protest against President Donald Trump’s executive order fast-tracking the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

A federal judge on Tuesday denied an initial request by owners of the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL) that asked the court to reconsider its order to shut the 570,000 barrel-a-day line within a month, court records show.

Dakota Access LLC, controlled by Energy Transfer, filed a motion to stay a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday to stop operations and empty DAPL pending an environmental review.

Energy Transfer said if its stay request was denied with the district court, it would pursue a stay and expedited appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals to delay the process of shutting the pipeline.

Native American tribes and environmental groups have protested DAPL, the largest crude oil pipeline out of North Dakota’s shale basin to the Midwest, even before it entered service in 2017.

The process of appealing the district court’s decision could take up to a year, legal experts say. If it is not granted a stay, that would mean the DAPL would need to be drained by August 5.

Energy Transfer, in legal filings this week, said it could take an estimated three months to empty the line, putting it in jeopardy of violating the court order.

There’s a slightly better possibility that the appellate court will grant a stay of the lower court’s decision, said James Coleman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University. But Dakota Access will need to show that the order forcing the pipeline to shut was wrong and that it will cause significant financial harm to the company and other beneficiaries, he added.

“It’s still a long shot. The Supreme Court option is even a bigger long shot,” said Coleman, who has expertise in environmental and energy cases.

The process to get a stay order, allowing the pipeline to run, could take the full 30 days Dakota Access has to empty the pipeline, he said.

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