BISMARCK — Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company to the Dakota Access Pipeline, issued a statement Wednesday, suggesting it would disregard a federal ruling to halt its pipeline operations by Aug. 5, but later put out a clarification tempering its stance.
"To be clear, we have not suggested that we would defy a court order," Lisa Coleman, an Energy Transfer Partners representative, told The Forum by email. "Rather, DAPL is seeking appropriate relief from that order thru the established legal process."
Coleman's clarification came as a quick follow-up to a more brazen initial statement. "We are not shutting in the line," Coleman first told The Forum, also by email. "As we stated on Monday, we believe Judge Boasberg exceeded his authority and does not have the jurisdiction to shut down the pipeline or stop the flow of crude oil. Additionally, we are accepting nominations from our shippers for August."
These statements follow Monday's decision by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg who ruled that Energy Transfer Partners must empty the pipeline and halt its operation by early next month, pending a thorough environmental review by the Army Corps of Engineers.
DAPL has become a national flashpoint since its construction in 2017 due to strong opposition and high-profile protests against the pipeline that crosses under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice lawyer who represents the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, responded to Energy Transfer's initial position in a statement to Bloomberg on Wednesday afternoon, arguing that the pipeline company is "playing a very dangerous game" and adding that "they don’t get to ignore a federal court order just because they disagree with it."
The Lakota People's Law Project also called Energy Transfer's initial announcement "unacceptable" in a statement Wednesday evening, writing that "Judge Boasberg’s scope of authority is not something ETP has the discretion to interpret."
The DAPL ruling was the subject of frequent discussion at the North Dakota Industrial Commission's meeting on Tuesday, where Gov. Doug Burgum and other commissioners grappled for fixes for a state oil industry already limping out of the pandemic.
Burgum grew stern when the DAPL ruling came up at his weekly press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
"This is a blow specifically damaging to North Dakota," he said. "I mean, not South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana. This is a direct hit on our state. And it hits jobs locally, local communities, the hotels, the restaurants, the bars, the schools, everybody who supports this industry."
Energy Transfer has appealed Boasberg's ruling to a higher court and requested a stay on his decision.
Forum readers can reach Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at email@example.com.