The Dakota Access Pipeline continues to operate, but under an unclear future

Published: Feb. 15, 2021 at 5:01 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A decision on whether the Dakota Access Pipeline would be shut down was supposed to take place on Feb. 10, but the deadline has been extended.

The Army Corps of Engineers said they need more time to discuss what to do regarding the pipeline with the new Biden administration. Oil and gas industry leaders said this buys them more time, but offers no clarity on what’s ahead.

The impact on North Dakota if Dakota Access were to shut down would be dramatic.

About 570,000 barrels of oil per day would need to find a new, more expensive route to market, which could cost the state about half a million dollars per day.

“That is of enormous concern to the state,” said Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms. Those numbers are why state officials have been writing to the Army Corps and the administration in a plea to keep the pipeline operating.

Industry leaders said finding an alternative way to market right now, like returning to rail, would be tough.

“It would likely take several months at least before the industry could start shifting and transitioning those barrels more and more onto the rail cars. So there would certainly be production and economic shock,” said North Dakota Pipeline Authority President Justin Kringstad.

The current decision extension, however, does buy the industry some time with no surprise shutdowns expected from the executive branch, at least not before the next hearing on the matter.

“It was actually the Biden administration that asked for the extension so they could give it some review before that hearing,” said Helms.

Helms added it’s also been helpful to have MHA Nation leaders on their side, reaching out to the administration asking for the pipeline to continue operating.

However, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is still fighting for the opposite outcome, to have the pipeline shut down. The hearing deciding whether the Dakota Access Pipeline will be able to continue operating while another environmental review happens will take place on April 9.

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