State trade group can weigh in on Dakota Access pipeline

Staff Writer
Devils Lake Journal

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A judge deciding whether to temporarily shut down the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline said Thursday that he will allow North Dakota's main energy trade group to weigh in.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg might also allow some national energy and manufacturing groups to have a say, though he didn't immediately rule.

The groups, including the North Dakota Petroleum Council, maintain their input is important because none of the parties in a lawsuit over the $3.8 billion pipeline to move North Dakota oil to Illinois speaks for the general oil industry.

The pipeline has been operating nearly two months, but Boasberg in mid-June ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to further review its impact on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has sued along with three other tribes over fears of environmental harm. Boasberg is mulling whether to shut down the pipeline while the work is completed.

"Ceasing (pipeline) operations would seriously harm businesses throughout the energy industry in the United States," David Coburn, an attorney representing several of the trade groups, said in court documents.

Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners says it would cost at least $20 million and as much as $234 million to shut down the line. It says a shutdown would cost the company $90 million in revenue each month and would impact 16 other pipelines that support the Dakota Access system.

Trade group attorneys maintain a shutdown would have even broader impacts by cutting oil production, increasing less-safe rail shipping, increasing shipping expenses for companies, cutting refinery supplies, harming state tax revenue and impacting royalty owners.

The North Dakota Petroleum Council, which represents more than 500 companies including ETP, said a shutdown "would pull the rug out from under the North Dakota oil industry," which is shipping half of its daily production through the pipeline.

The trade groups also maintain Boasberg's decision could have consequences far beyond Dakota Access.

"Any decision by this court to vacate the Corps' approvals and order (the pipeline) to cease operations could result in similar rulings in other pipeline cases," Coburn wrote.

The national groups seeking a say are the American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Association of Oil Pipe Lines, national Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers.

Standing Rock attorney Jan Hasselman, who has called for shutting down the pipeline and bringing in independent experts to determine harm to the tribe, said Thursday that the tribe won't object to the trade groups' request.

"I expect people will be weighing in on our side, too," he said.