Home / Energy / Q&A: The 4-state, $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline
Sacred Stones camp, Sioux, Dakota Access, pipeline protest
The Sacred Stones Overflow Camp is growing in size and number as more people arrive at the site along North Dakota Highway 1806 and across the Cannonball River from the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, Monday, Sept. 5, 2016 in Morton County, N.D. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

Q&A: The 4-state, $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge has said he’ll rule by Friday on the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s lawsuit that challenges federal permits for the four-state, $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline.

The lawsuit alleges that the pipeline, which would be placed less than a mile upstream of the reservation, could impact drinking water for more than 8,000 tribal members and millions who rely on it downstream.

There also have been skirmishes between protesters and private security guards on private land, where the tribe says construction has disturbed ancient sacred sites.

Some things to know about the pipeline and the tribe’s ongoing protest:



Owned by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile project would carry nearly a half-million barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota’s oil fields through South Dakota and Iowa to an existing pipeline in Patoka, Illinois, where shippers can access Midwest and Gulf Coast markets.



The tribe sued federal regulators for approving the oil pipeline, challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant permits at more than 200 water crossings. Filed on behalf of the tribe by environmental group Earthjustice, the suit says the project violates several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, and will disturb sacred sites outside of the 2.3-million acre reservation.



ETP says the pipeline includes safeguards such as leak detection equipment, and workers monitoring the pipeline remotely in Texas could close block valves on it within three minutes if a breach is detected.



Since April, a nonviolent tribal protest by mostly members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been set up at a “spirit camp” at the confluence of the Cannonball and Missouri rivers in the path of the pipeline.

It’s grown considerably, as they’ve been joined by other American Indians and non-Native Americans from across the country, including “Divergent” actress Shailene Woodley.

But the protest has become heated, with nearly 40 arrested, including Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II. None of the arrests stemmed from Saturday’s confrontation between protesters and construction workers.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and running mate Ajamu Baraka camped with protesters Monday, and her campaign spokeswoman said Stein spray-painted construction equipment Tuesday. Stein and Baraka have been charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal trespass and criminal mischief.

North Dakota authorities are recruiting law enforcement officers from across the state to guard the site of the protest in anticipation of U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s impending federal ruling.



Last weekend, tribal officials said crews bulldozed several sites of “significant cultural and historic value” on private land, which Energy Transfer Partners denies.

It led to Saturday’s clash between protesters and private security guards hired by the pipeline company. Law enforcement officials said four security guards and two guard dogs received medical treatment, while a tribal spokesman countered that six people were bitten by guard dogs and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.

On Tuesday, Boasberg partially granted the tribe’s request to temporarily stop work near Lake Oahe to prevent the destruction of more sacred sites, but not on the private land that sparked the protest.

North Dakota chief archaeologist Paul Picha plans to inspect the area, likely next week.



Yes, but nothing like in North Dakota. Construction equipment at several sites in Iowa was set on fire earlier in August, causing more than $1 million in damage.



Announced in 2014, supporters said the pipeline would create more markets and reduce truck and oil train traffic — the latter of which has been a growing concern after a spate of fiery derailments of trains carrying North Dakota crude.


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  1. If past history is any indicator of what lies ahead, then it’s not a matter of “if”, but “where and when” the next big oil spill will occur. Secondly, I know that we need money to live. But we also need clean air to breathe, clean food to eat and clean soil to plant foodstuffs in. Lastly, we commit genocide on the American-Indian, put him on a reservation and make him totally dependent on us for handouts. Then we make treaties, but do not honor them. Now, we want to mess with them some more. Are we ever going to just leave them alone?

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