The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the necessary approval for Energy Transfer Partners to complete work on the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, which had generated escalating opposition from Native Americans and environmentalists.
Sunday’s rejection was based on mandates in the Mineral Leasing Act and the involvement of the historic tribal homelands, among other factors, the Corps said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Corps’ assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement.
The company had been waiting for a federal permit to build the final section of the $3.8 billion pipeline spanning four states. The project had been scheduled to open by year-end.
The setback may be temporary. While the decision by the Army Corps prevents the pipeline’s completion for now, analysts have said Energy Transfer will probably receive approval to finish the project under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. He signaled his support for the pipeline as recently as Dec. 1.
Protests of the pipeline have resulted in hundreds of arrests and drawn support from celebrities. The standoff is emblematic of a broader effort by environmentalists to stall oil and gas pipelines, which they say aren’t needed and hurt the nation’s progress toward reducing its reliance on fossil fuels.
A spokeswoman for Energy Transfer Partners wasn’t available for comment.
Dakota Access has been central to the intensifying debate over the need for new pipelines in the U.S. It has become a rallying point for the anti-fossil-fuel movement and has drawn intense opposition from Native Americans who say it would damage culturally significant sites.
Protesters camped for months in North Dakota had been told they would be evicted on Monday.
“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration,” Dave Archambault II, tribal chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a statement Sunday. “In a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle, it took tremendous courage.”
“The thoughtful approach established by the Army today ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.
The pipeline would help cut costs for drillers in North Dakota’s Bakken shale region, which have turned to more costly rail shipments when existing pipes filled up. Dakota Access, with a capacity of about 470,000 barrels a day, would ship about half of the current Bakken crude production and enable producers to access Midwest and Gulf Coast markets.