Appeals court temporarily halts Dakota Access line shutdown

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday temporarily halted a judge’s order that the Dakota Access Pipeline be shut down in three weeks.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an “administrative stay” of the judge’s order. Though the appeals court said it “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits” of the case, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

The stay will remain in place until the appeals court rules on whether developer Energy Transfer can keep oil flowing while the court decides the Texas-based company’s appeal of the shutdown order.

U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg last week ordered the line shut down by Aug. 5 pending a lengthy environmental review. The line began pumping oil more than three years ago. Energy Transfer estimates it would take three months to empty the pipeline of oil and complete steps to preserve it for future use.

Pipeline supporter GAIN Coalition, which includes businesses, trade associations and labor groups, called the order “a key step forward in reaffirming the Dakota Access Pipeline’s critical role in the American energy infrastructure network.” North Dakota Republican U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, another supporter, called the temporary halt “common sense.”

But Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said the move is not significant.

Hasselman said in a statement an administrative stay is typical and “is not in any way indicative of how the court is going to rule — it just buys the court a little additional time to make a decision.”

The line was the subject of months of protests in 2016 and 2017, sometimes violent, during its construction near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border. The tribe took legal action against the pipeline even after it began carrying oil from North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa and to a shipping point in Illinois in June 2017.

The $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile (1,886 kilometer) pipeline crosses beneath the Missouri River, just north of the reservation. The tribe draws its water from the river and has concerns about pollution. The company maintains the line is safe.