Operators of the Dakota Access pipeline signaled this week that they intend to ask the Supreme Court for a ruling regarding whether they are operating without a valid permit, as lower courts have determined.
The move comes after an appeals court in Washington ruled in favor of plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought by Native American groups and concluded that more review was needed for the project to continue.
“Preserve the status quo”
As the most recent filing explains, pipeline operators are asking the court to allow continuing operation while an appeal to the nation’s highest court is being considered.
“A stay would preserve the status quo, retaining jurisdiction in this Court to consider a potential request for relief from vacatur while the Supreme Court considers the forthcoming petition,” lawyers argued.
Attorneys on the other side of the issue, however, are fighting against the request.
Jan Hasselman, who represents the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in the case, decried the “pipeline’s increasingly desperate efforts,” asserting: “The courts have agreed that the pipeline requires a full, careful environmental impact statement.”
For its part, the Biden administration has not moved to freeze construction of the Dakota Access pipeline like it did in regard to the Keystone XL pipeline, but it withdrew the Justice Department’s prior backing in the pipeline’s lawsuit.
“Bold action he has taken”
Despite that move, some environmental groups believe the White House should go further.
Sierra Club Director Michael Brune, for example, recently said that Biden’s position does not “live up to the climate and Tribal commitments he made, nor is it in line with the bold action he has taken since taking office.”
The difference between the administration’s response to the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access is likely rooted at least partially in politics.
While former President Donald Trump’s administration approved Keystone XL, the Dakota Access pipeline was approved by former President Barack Obama.
Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president, might be trying to avoid the perception that his former boss was wrong to approve that pipeline. In other words, critics suggest that Biden and other Democratic Party leaders are more interested in dismantling as much of the Trump agenda as possible than they are in protecting the environment.