Energy Transfer Partners executives said on Thursday that they expect “imminent” federal approval to begin drilling under the Missouri River in North Dakota and finish one of the last sections of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
The pipeline is 84 percent complete, executives said during a call with analysts on their third quarter earnings. Workers are mobilizing drilling equipment now in preparation for approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which owns a 500-foot buffer around the waterway. There is little construction left to do in North Dakota, although the company is still working on sections in Iowa.
Native Americans and environmentalists have set up camps around Lake Oahe, a dammed reservoir on the Missouri River near the South Dakota border, protesting the pipeline’s construction. The Standing Rock Sioux reservation sits just south of the pipeline’s path; the tribe says construction runs through sacred land and burial ground. Tribe members also fear a spill would spoil the Missouri and contaminate their water source.
But Energy Transfer, based in Dallas, said on Thursday that the pipeline is 99.98 percent on private land and does not cross any land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux. Moreover, executives said, almost all of the land is adjacent to an existing pipeline. Multiple studies, executives continued, found no cultural artifacts or sacred sites in the pipeline’s pathway.
Energy Transfer said the pipeline will cross 90 to 150 feet below the lake, will have double walls and remote-control shut off valves at each end of the lake.
The company has all other permits required to complete the pipeline, executives said; The Army Corps authorization is the sole outstanding approval.
“As soon as we have that, are able to set up hydraulic drilling,” said Energy Transfer President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Ramsey.
Energy Transfer’s third quarter net income fell $255 million to $138 million over the same period last year, the company reported, due largely to a $308 million write-down of assets in its Midcontinent Express Pipeline, which the company says is struggling.
Revenues fell by $1.1 billion to $5.5 billion in the quarter; the company trimmed expenses by about the same figure, to $4.9 billion.
But company co-founder and chief executive Kelcy Warren said he was bullish on the company’s future, especially following the upset election of Donald Trump this week.
“I’m stunned by the events of yesterday,” Warren said. “That’s not to get into politics; I just didn’t see this coming.”
Warren groused that the Obama administration didn’t support infrastructure development. “My God this is going to be refreshing,” Warren continued. “We’re really enthusiastic about our future.”