U.S. could grant final permit for Dakota pipeline as soon as Friday -govt lawyer

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By Valerie Volcovici | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Army secretary could make a
decision on the final permit needed to complete the
controversial Dakota Access Pipeline as soon as Friday, the
government’s lawyer told a Washington, D.C., court on Monday.

The Army Corp of Engineers told the court it has submitted
its recommendation to Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the
Army, on whether it needs to complete a full environmental
review before it can grant the final permit allowing work to
start on a contested tunnel under a lake. The review was
requested in December by former President Barack Obama.

Opponents argue that letting the pipeline cross under Lake
Oahe, a reservoir that is the water source for the Standing Rock
Sioux Reservation, would damage sacred lands and could leak oil
into the tribe’s water supply.

Proponents believe the pipeline is necessary to transport
U.S. oil safely and that it would create jobs.

Jan Hasselman, an attorney with Earthjustice, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux, said the tribe will
challenge the U.S. government in court if the Army grants the
easement. The tribe, along with other Native American groups,
environmentalists and other activists, have opposed the $3.8
billion Dakota Access Pipeline led by Energy Transfer Partners
LP.

He said it is unclear whether construction could begin while
the decision is challenged or whether the court will grant an
injunction blocking the work.

“Our position is the tribe’s treaty rights and the law
require the full (Environmental Impact Study) process that the
government initiated in December. Issuing the easement without
that process will be a serious violation of the law,” Hasselman
told Reuters.

A spokesman for the Army was not immediately available to
comment. Energy Transfer Partners declined to comment on the
legal proceedings.

At the hearing at the D.C. Circuit Court on Monday, lawyers
for ETP said the pipeline would become fully operational around
90 days after construction begins. If the easement is granted,
oil can start crossing under the lake, a reservoir that is part
of the Missouri River, as soon as 60 days after construction
starts. (Additional reporting by Liz Hampton in Houston)



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