The Army officially granted Energy Transfer Partners formal permission Wednesday to lay pipe under Lake Oahe, clearing the way for completion of the 1,200-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline. An ETP spokeswoman,Vicki Granado, confirmed early Thursday that construction resumed “immediately after receiving the easement.”
Workers had already drilled entry and exit holes for the crossing, and oil had been put in the pipeline leading up to the lake. “The estimate is 60 days to complete the drill and another 23 days to fill the line to Patoka,” Granado said, referring to the shipping point in Illinois that is the pipeline’s destination.
Work had been stalled for months due to the opposition by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux, as well as a court battle between the developer and the Army Corps of Engineers that oversee the federal land.
ETP still promises that the pipeline is safe. The tribe’s lawsuit was filed last summer and maintains that the pipeline project threatens their water and cultural sites. They also want to make a claim on freedom-of-religion grounds.
“The sanctity of these waters is a central tenet of their religion and the placement of the pipeline itself, apart from any rupture and oil spill, is a desecration of these waters,” Ducheneaux wrote.
Standing Rock Sioux attorney Jan Hasselman explained that tribe will also try to block the lake crossing in court, with likely arguments that further study is necessary to preserve tribal treaty rights. An assessment conducted last year determined the river crossing would not have a significant effect on the environment. However, the Army decided in December that further study was warranted to address their concerns.
The Corps launched an environmental impact study on Jan. 18. Legal experts have disagreed on whether the Army can arbitrarily change its mind because of the change in White House administrations.