Environmental Justice. A passionate protest over a proposed pipeline in North Dakota captured the hearts and minds of people worldwide. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project would connect areas of oil-rich North Dakota to Illinois, where the crude oil could then be transported to refineries on the Gulf Coast or East Coast. The extension of the pipe lies on federal land in southern North Dakota. Demonstrators say the 1,172-mile pipeline would damage sacred lands and any leaks could pollute the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Opponents believe the four-state pipeline threatens cultural sites.  Large crowds of demonstrators set up camp near the proposed route in August 2016, refusing to leave until the project is stopped. Meanwhile, proponents argue that the pipeline could provide a safer, more environmentally friendly way of moving crude oil compared to other modes of transportation, such as rail or trucks.

Location, Location, Location. The pipeline would stretch from the oil-rich Bakken Formation—an immense underground deposit where Montana and North Dakota meet Canada—southeast into South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The DAPL will transport 570,000 barrels per day of crude oil from the Bakken shale of North Dakota to the Midwest. A protest movement successfully pressured the Obama administration to deny Dakota Access the easement it needed to drill underneath Lake Oahe. President Donald Trump, however, has said he would review that decision. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind DAPL, estimates the $3.8 billion pipeline project would bring $156 million in sales and income taxes to state and local governments. The developer also says it will add 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs.

Legal Update. The Army published a notice on Wednesday, Jan. 18, of its intent to prepare an environmental impact statement on the Lake Oahe crossing. As a result, Texas-based developer ETP will not be able to lay pipe under the reservoir while the study is ongoing. A federal judge denied an effort by the developer, Dakota Access, LLC, to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from starting an environmental study. A study could take up to two years, according to the Energy Department. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe called the notice “yet another small victory on the path to justice.” Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said that a broad environmental impact statement was warranted and the Corps wants to look at the potential for a pipeline leak and tribal treaty rights in the wake of opposition by Standing Rock.

Join the Federal Bar Association at the 2017 Indian Law Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona April 6-7 to discuss the legal aspects of the DAPL and much more. Sign up today at www.fedbar.org/indianlaw17 to take advantage of reduced registration rates.


Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.