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February 15, 2021

Court Delays Dakota Access Pipeline Decision

According to The Hill, on Feb. 8 the Biden administration asked the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for more time to decide the fate of the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil and natural gas pipeline that would run from North Dakota to Illinois. In a filing last Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice asked the court to postpone a conference on the status of the pipeline for 58 days while it gets Biden administration officials up to speed on the case.

As Connecting the Dots reported last month, the circuit court had ruled that the federal government should have conducted an environmental impact statement before going forward with the pipeline. As such, it vacated easements granted for its construction to cross federally owned land. A day after the Biden administration made the request for delay, a federal judge granted it.

According to the Energy Equipment and Infrastructure Alliance (EEIA), which MSCI is a member of, if the Dakota Access Pipeline is canceled it will mean 500,000 barrels of oil per day will need to be transported via the nation’s rail system. Using rail instead of the pipeline would cause locomotives to emit 750,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year by burning 68 million gallons of diesel fuel.

Two other things also happen when oil travels on the rails instead of by pipeline. First, finite rail capacity, also needed for other types of freight, gets stretched to the limit, crowding out and thus raising the cost of rail transport. This outcome is particularly hurtful to farmers who would pay more to move grain from Midwestern farms to market – and consumers who  buy agricultural products. Second, since it costs about three times as much to ship oil by rail than by pipeline, consumers’ energy costs will rise. That’s because there will be higher costs for everyday products made from petroleum and higher transportation costs will be passed along in the price of all consumer goods transported by diesel-burning truck.

Read more about the EEIA here.