Judge orders additional environmental review of Dakota Access Pipeline

A judge has ordered additional environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but it was not clear whether it would actually stop oil from flowing, even temporarily, when the case is heard again next week.

US district judge in Washington, James Boasberg, on Wednesday ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers, in its environmental review of the Dakota Access line, failed to fully consider the impact of the pipeline on the hunting, fishing and environmental justice rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The tribe has been fighting the line for more than a year.

According to legal experts, Boasberg had quite a bit of leeway with his decision, depending on what he deemed were the environmental impacts of allowing oil to keep flowing.

"Under US Supreme Court precedent he should apply the traditional injunction test to determine exactly what may occur - or not - during additional environmental analysis," said Zeke Williams, managing director of the energy and natural resources practice at Lewis Bess Williams & Weese in Denver.

The parties involved, including pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners Inc, will reconvene on Wednesday. The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux want the judge to stop the pipeline flow when he considered the possibility of additional environmental review.

Boasberg ruled that although the US Army Corps of Engineers ''substantially complied'' with federal laws in its mandated environmental reviews of the pipeline, ''it did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline's effects are likely to be highly controversial.''

To address those review shortfalls, Boasberg wrote in his ruling released Wednesday that the Army Corps of Engineers needed to do additional environmental analysis. But the ruling that ran into 91 pages stopped short of shutting off the pipeline.