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Dakota Access Pipeline’s owner defies courts, refuses to shut down

On July 6, the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) shut down. The court said it should be drained by August 5 and the government would conduct a rigorous environmental review.

But its owner, Energy Transfer LP, a Dallas-based company run by billionaire Kelcy Warren, refuses to do so. In fact, it’s accepting requests for oil space on the pipeline in August.

The DAPL is a 1,172-mile-long oil pipeline that runs from North Dakota to Illinois. The government will conduct an analysis examining the risk DAPL poses to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has been fighting the pipeline since 2016.

When the DAPL was ordered shut down, Chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe responded:

Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline. This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.

But incredibly, in defiance of the court order, Energy Transfer’s spokesperson Vicki Granado said in an email to Bloomberg:

We believe [Judge James E. Boasberg] exceeded his authority and does not have the jurisdiction to shut down the pipeline or stop the flow of crude oil.

This likely means they’re going to fight the court order, and they’re not going to turn off the oil tap. So what’s next? Bloomberg explains:

Energy Transfer has multiple routine options for fighting the order in court. It’s asking the US District Court for the District of Columbia to suspend the decision, and it’s pursuing an appeal. If those efforts fail, it can ask the US Supreme Court to step in.

If Energy Transfer opts to bypass those traditional routes and instead simply refuses to shut down the pipeline, the district court could hold the company in contempt. An outright violation of a court order could result in fines or jail time.

Earthjustice lawyer Jan Hasselman, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access said:

Energy Transfer is playing a very dangerous game. They don’t get to ignore a federal court order just because they disagree with it.

Electrek’s Take

Here’s a little background on Energy Transfer’s CEO and chairman Warren.

One, Donald Trump’s former US Energy Secretary Rick Perry joined the board of Warren’s Energy Transfer, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called for Perry to step down because it was an “unethical” position for Perry to be in. Guess he didn’t — Perry is still listed as on the board on Energy Transfer’s website.

Two, Kelcy Warren held a major fundraiser for Trump in June in Dallas. “About 25 couples are expected to contribute a combined $10 million to Trump’s campaign, the Republican National Committee, and state party organizations, according to an RNC official,” according to Bloomberg.

Of course, Warren raised money for Trump: Trump is a major supporter of Big Oil and cleared regulatory hurdles for DAPL that were later declared in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by the court.

So Kelcy Warren clearly feels that his political connections supersede the law. Who cares what the courts say? He’s got Trump’s backing. Drain the swamp, indeed. An environmental organization representative I spoke to yesterday called this defiance unprecedented. Now let’s see if the justice system will do what it’s supposed to do.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.