A full environmental review of part of the Dakota Access Pipeline was ordered by a U.S. federal court on Wednesday, handing a significant victory to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which had petitioned to nullify federal permits for the pipeline.
"This court ultimately concludes that too many questions remain unanswered. Unrebutted expert critiques regarding leak-detection systems, operator safety records, adverse conditions, and worst-case discharge mean that the easement approval remains 'highly controversial' under NEPA," the court ruling said.
The pipeline, which brings oil down from North Dakota to Illinois, has been contested by several environmental groups and the Native American tribes who live near it.
According to the ruling by United States District Judge James E. Boasberg, the federal government had not done a good enough job in studying the risks of a major spill from the pipeline or whether the pipeline's leak detection system was adequate. Boasberg specifically said the original study did not consider how an oil spill might affect the tribe's fishing and huntings rights.
The Army Corp of Engineers must now conduct a more extensive review of the pipeline, with the judge ordering that both parties must "brief the issue of whether the easement should be vacated during the remand" and whether oil can continue flowing.
"After years of commitment to defending our water and earth, we welcome this news of a significant legal win," said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith. "It’s humbling to see how actions we took four years ago to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet. Perhaps in the wake of this court ruling the federal government will begin to catch on, too, starting by actually listening to us when we voice our concerns."
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