Port: In another blow to North Dakota's wellbeing, judge orders Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown citing Obama-era error in federal permitting

Dakota Access Pipeline protesters are seen with authorities in this Forum News Service file photo.
Dakota Access Pipeline protesters are seen with authorities in this Forum News Service file photo.

MINOT, N.D. — "The Court will nonetheless require the oil to stop flowing and 24the pipeline to be emptied within 30 days from the date of this Opinion and accompanying Order."

Those are the words of Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee who has been presiding over the long-running legal dispute over the Dakota Access Pipeline. His ruling Monday, July 6, is a big win for the Native American tribes and the left-wing activists. They fought (often with physical violence) to prevent the pipeline from being built, and have demanded its shutdown since it began operating.

At issue was a decision made by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under the Obama administration to forgo a full Environmental Impact Statement.

This is not the fault of the state of North Dakota. This is a federal regulation. Nor is it the fault of Energy Transfer Partners, the folks who own DAPL. They don't write the rules; they just follow them as instructed by the government.

Judge Boasberg had previously ordered an EIS be conducted (they take years to complete), but Monday ruled that the pipeline should be emptied of oil while that review is completed.


This is terrible news from the perspective of North Dakota's wellbeing. Our state, generally, and the oil industry, specifically, have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices. DAPL has carried as much as 570,000 barrels per day of oil out of the state, which is approaching half of North Dakota's total oil production.

The great irony here is that this great victory for the environmental activists will likely result in much of the oil which would have been transported by DAPL will now be shipped by rail, which, statistically, is more prone to incident.

Though we shouldn't pretend as though any reasonable person's definition of environmental stewardship is the goal. At play are certain extreme political ideologies which would have the oil industry, an endeavor nearly every American relies on, shut down.

Environmentalism, and the treaty rights of our Native American neighbors, are just window dressing.

There will be much celebrating from the opponents of oil and oil pipelines Monday, but the real-world impacts of this ruling are tragic.

A lot of North Dakotans will be losing their jobs because of this, kicked in the teeth by politics once again.


You also have to wonder how much longer companies like Energy Transfer Partners will be willing to invest what it takes to build infrastructure like DAPL. The regulatory process around a project like this already takes years and billions to complete, and that's before the lawsuits filed by the various environmental groups commence.

What Judge Boasberg proved Monday is that you can spend billions of dollars on building a pipeline to carry a product everybody uses, complying with every rule and procedure the government puts in front of you, and still end up with an empty pipeline while your political antagonists jeer.

This is not a good outcome for our environment.

It's not a good outcome for our economy.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

File photo of a police line moving through and past the north protest camp on North Dakota Hwy. 1806 on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, north of Cannon Ball. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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