Energy Transfer moves ahead with Dakota Access, despite protests, Obama request

Energy Transfer Partners LP is moving forward with construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, rejecting the Obama administration’s request that it voluntarily halt some work on the $3.8 billion project.

“Dakota Access looks forward to a prompt resumption of construction activities” the company said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday after an appeals court decision cleared the way for construction to continue on one segment of the project that had been blocked by a legal challenge. While work can continue on a stretch of private land near Lake Oahe in North and South Dakota, construction remains suspended by federal order on another segment, preventing completion of the project.

The company’s decision to resume work comes after several protesters were arrested trying to halt construction at the project earlier this week, and amid a broader effort Tuesday to shut down other pipelines bringing crude from Canada.

Securing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ authorization is the last hurdle for the 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometer) pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois, which is almost 60 percent complete. Critics of the project are pressing ahead with protests despite the recent legal setback.

“This fight is far from over,” said Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement after the appeals court order.

Sioux Tribe

At the center of the controversy is the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has said construction along one section would damage sites it considers culturally significant and pose an environmental hazard where the pipeline crosses the river. Industry groups maintain that Energy Transfer has correctly followed the permitting process, and that the Obama administration’s last-minute interference is an unprecedented action that will affect other infrastructure projects.

Energy Transfer said it expects the federal government to eventually grant the permission it needs to proceed with construction crossing beneath the Missouri River. The pipeline was scheduled to be in service by the end of the year, and the company hasn’t said publicly that it expects that deadline to be delayed. Last month, Chief Executive Officer Kelcy Warren said Energy Transfer would take its battle to Washington where it would meet with officials “to understand their position.”

Federal Review

Last month, a Justice Department attorney said the federal review of Dakota Access will likely be completed in weeks, not months. The Obama administration also began a series of consultations on Tuesday to consider whether nationwide reform is needed for the tribal consultation process on such projects.

Meanwhile, high-profile opposition to the pipeline continues. Neil Young lined the stage with Standing Rock tribal flags at a concert in California on Saturday. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department in North Dakota said 27 people, including actress Shailene Woodley, were arrested on Monday during protests.

Pipeline Shutdowns

Enbridge Inc., Spectra Energy Corp., TransCanada Corp. and Kinder Morgan Inc. shut all or parts of pipelines able to bring more than 2 million barrels a day from Alberta to the U.S. Midwest.

Enbridge shut lines 4 and 67 as a precaution after activists attempted to stop the oil flow on a Minnesota pipeline, company spokesman Graham White said in an e-mail. TransCanada Corp. said it shut the Keystone pipeline as a precaution.

Spectra shut the Montana section of the Express pipeline because of a tampered valve from people trespassing a locked facility. The line has been restarted. Kinder Morgan shut, and then restarted, the Puget Sound section of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

TransCanada’s proposed Energy East oil pipeline and natural-gas lines in the Northeastern U.S. have also faced criticism. Protesters interfered with a Spectra natural gas pipeline that will cross the Hudson River near Entergy Corp.’s Indian Point nuclear plant in New York state, occupying it for about 16 hours on Monday, company spokeswoman Marylee Hanley said.

Energy Transfer Partners owns the Dakota Access project jointly with Phillips 66 and Sunoco Logistics Partners LP. A joint venture between Marathon Petroleum Corp. and Enbridge Energy Partners LP, announced in August, will also take a minority stake in the pipeline.