Federal Judge Orders Dakota Access Pipeline to Be Shut Down, Emptied of Oil

Lake Oahe in North Dakota along the Missouri River, under which the Dakota Access Pipeline was built. Photo: Arglyeist/Flickr

A federal judge on Monday ordered that the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline that crosses more than 300 miles of Iowa land temporarily be shut down within 30 days and emptied of the crude oil it transports to a hub in central Illinois from the Bakken shale in North Dakota.

The ruling was made by US District Court Judge James Boasberg, who previously ruled in 2017 that an environmental review carried out by the Army Corps of Engineers was inadequate. The rulings focus specifically on the pipeline’s passage under Lake Oahe just outside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation in North Dakota and along the Missouri River, where construction was blocked by the Obama administration in September 2016 but reversed when President Trump took office the following year.

The Standing Rock Sioux — whose protests of the pipeline’s construction eventually made international news — and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes subsequently sued the government, and on Monday Boasberg — an Obama appointee — reiterated that the permitting of the pipeline came after “deficiencies” in the Army Corps’ environmental review and violated the National Environmental Policy Act.

Boasberg’s latest ruling requires the pipeline to remain shut down until the Army Corps provides a comprehensive environmental impact statement that adequately addresses the tribes’ concerns about spills and other potential problems. The judge ordered the review earlier this year after previously striking down permits he found in violation of NEPA.

Around the same time, the Iowa Utilities Board signed off on a request from Dakota Access to double its flow of oil through Iowa to 1.1 million barrels a day.

The Informer extensively covered the fight over the project’s approval and you can find all of that coverage here.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.