Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company behind Dakota Access, filed a lawsuit that could allow them to complete the pipeline without the necessary government approval.
Energy Transfer Partners and its subsidiary Sunoco Logistics are looking to circumvent a recent government decision that called for a temporary halt to construction on the controversial Dakota Access pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners filed a lawsuit this past Tuesday at a US federal court in Washington, DC. The lawsuit seeks a ruling declaring that the Dakota Access pipeline has the legal right to build, complete and operate the Dakota Access pipeline without any action or further approval on the part of the US Army Corps of Engineers or any other federal agency. The Corps are currently considering granting the Dakota Access project an easement that would allow construction to drill under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, which local native tribe and their allies say threaten their only source of drinking water. However, if Energy Transfer Partners succeed in getting the ruling they want, any potential intervention from the Corps or another federal agency would be unable to stop the project. Such a decision would also definitively prove that corporations are even more powerful than the US federal government, making them essentially accountable to no one.
According to court documents, Energy Transfer Partners has claimed the numerous delays to the pipeline’s construction, including government intervention and nearly 8 months of protests from Native American groups, have already cost the company nearly $100 million. The lawsuit argues that “further delay in the consideration of this case would add millions of dollars more each month in costs which cannot be recovered.” In addition to Energy Transfer Partners losing money, the state of North Dakota has already spent millions and has been forced to borrow millions more as they have been stuck with the bill for the massive, militarized police response to protests against the project.
Energy Transfer Partners has not spent a dime on the protection of its own pipeline, save for a single helicopter that police can use in the case of a medical emergency. Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann, leader of the state’s National Guard, has estimated that $8 million has been spent to date on law enforcement and other costs related to the protests, all of which has been funded by state taxpayers and not the pipeline company itself. The state of North Dakota has borrowed over $10 million in the last few months to cover the costs of “managing protestors” as well as the costs of out-of-state police officers who have “come to the aid” of the North Dakota.
Despite Energy Transfer Partner’s complaints that they have lost $100 million due to delays, much of that money never existed in the first place. Much of this sum is an estimation of expected future profits lost for every day the pipeline’s completion remains behind schedule. Besides the money spent on the construction of the pipeline itself, the group that has actually been burdened by the delays and costs of the protests are North Dakota taxpayers, many of whom oppose the pipeline and themselves participate in the protests against it. Regardless, Energy Transfer Partner’s attempts to gut federal authority over pipeline construction projects that meet resistance and present a real danger to the environment and citizens could start a dangerous chain of events, not just for North Dakota, but the nation as whole.
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