Karen Fratti
June 15, 2017 10:01 am
Boston Globe/Getty Images

This winter, it seemed like all of the protests and awareness surrounding the Dakota Access pipeline might have been for naught. But a judge just ordered the Army Corps to review their Dakota Access pipeline environmental analyses, since it could potentially hurt the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. This is very good news for the region. In an almost 100-page opinion, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg decided that although the government complied with most of the rules, it didn’t address how an oil spill would affect the Standing Rock people if one occurred — which means they have to go back and redo their work.

This doesn’t mean that the pipeline isn’t going to be totally out of commission, but it does mean that the government will have to be more accountable for whatever happens on the land.

The ruling is also a victory for the Standing Rock tribe and their allies. It calls out the president’s executive orders from January, which allowed construction to move forward with pretty much no discussion about the protestors’ demands. Boasberg wrote, “The Court agrees that [the Corps] did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”

This review of Dakota Access pipeline’s environmental impact is worth celebrating.

So why didn’t this happen before? If you’ve been following the fight against the DAPL, you might remember that a few Sioux tribes have tried to fight the Army Corps in court, but they were never able to convince a judge that the pipeline would really hurt their historic sites or destroy the sacred waters of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. That’s why all the protests happened in the first place. But this time was different.

When the president signed those executive orders back in January, part of the order was to “expedite” the work on the DAPL, ostensibly to get people back to work despite the consequences. But expediting the permits meant that the Army Corps didn’t really do their due diligence, so this time there was something specific to point to.

You have to admit: It’s sort of ironic that the executive orders to expedite construction of the pipeline upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux’s land is also the piece of paper that might halt work on it. Don’t go all out with the celebrations just yet though. The pipeline is allowed to operate until next week (it’s been pumping since the beginning of the month) when Boasberg will begin hearings with both parties.

Just send really, really good, environmentally friendly vibes that way until then. It’s possible that politics will actually do some good for once.

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