Dakota Access and Atlantic Coast Pipelines to Shut Down

By Ayana Byrd Jul 06, 2020

Indigenous and environmental activists have scored major victories regarding two of the nation’s most controversial pipelines. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was ordered emptied by a federal court on Monday (July 6), while the companies behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) announced Sunday (July 5) that they were not going to finish construction. Both pipelines endangered Indigenous lands, waterways and clean air.


According to Bloomberg Law:

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said a crucial federal permit for Dakota Access fell too far short of National Environmental Policy Act requirements to allow the pipeline to continue operating while regulators bolster their analysis.

The ruling scraps a critical permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, and requires the pipeline to end its three-year run of delivering oil from North Dakota shale fields to an Illinois oil hub. Judge James E. Boasberg said Dakota Access must shut down the pipeline and empty it of oil by Aug. 5.

Dakota Access is a 1,172-mile pipeline that runs from North Dakota to Illinois. The 2016 movement to stop construction on the pipeline was led by the Standing Rock Sioux, but had global support, including camps of protestors living on nearby land and efforts around the world urging banks to divest from the project.

In January 2017, days after taking office, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that allowed construction to move forward.

There have been at least 10 spills totaling hundreds of gallons of crude oil since DAPL began operating in June 2017. A portion of it runs under the Missouri River, which supplies water to the Standing Rock Reservation, which is located upstream. The tribe maintains that an oil spill near the reservation would significantly impact its water.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, announced in 2014, is still under construction but has already been at the center of legal controversy. The pipeline, at completion, would be 600-miles long, spanning from West Virginia to North Carolina and carrying approximately 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily. It is owned by majority stakeholder Dominion Energy and Duke Energy.

Last August, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated two permits for the $8 billion pipeline, citing concerns that it would negatively impact endangered animals and public lands. ACP would run under waterways in Virginia, leading to a risk of spills and contamination. In response, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered a halt to construction until all permits were obtained.

The pipeline also endangered Black communities. In February 2018, the NAACP released a report, “Fumes Across the Fence Line,” which concluded that building the ACP through lower-income earning Eastern North Carolina counties would be detrimental to Black communities. “African American and other environmental justice communities face heavy burdens because of the millions of pounds of hazardous emissions released by the oil and gas industry each year,” said the report.

In addition, Indigenous activists and tribe leaders asserted that approximately 30,000 Native Americans live near the proposed pipeline route, a greater number than those affected by DAPL.

Sunday, CNN reported:

Dominion Energy and Duke Energy have canceled their Atlantic Coast Pipeline project, a natural gas pipeline that was to stretch hundreds of miles across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, citing "legal uncertainty."

Despite a recent win for the project in the US Supreme Court, ongoing delays, litigation and an expected increase in costs threatened the economic viability of the project, the companies said Sunday.

"This announcement reflects the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States," Thomas Farrell, chairman of Dominion Energy, said in a statement. "Until these issues are resolved, the ability to satisfy the country’s energy needs will be significantly challenged."

The news was hailed as a victory by ACP’s opponents.