A U.S. federal judge has ruled Energy Transfer Partners, the developers of the Dakota Access Pipeline, will be allowed to keep some information about spill risks secret from the public, despite concerns that an oil leak could cause irrevocable harm to the environment.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said, “The asserted interest in limiting intentionally inflicted harm outweighs the tribes’ generalized interests in public disclosure and scrutiny,” over the company’s assertions that some information could be used by “vandals” and people “with the malicious intent to damage the pipeline.”
But the “vandals” and people “with the malicious intent to damage the pipeline” are hardly what the pipeline company and judge made them out to be. Instead, they are members of the Native American tribes, notably the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who are deeply worried — and not without cause — that the construction of DAPL will not just poison their water supply but also desecrate their ancestral graves, something they hold in the highest esteem.
The campaign against the oil pipeline has been going on for several months — but in vain. Now the two tribes are arguing that data about the spill risk could strengthen their case that more environmental research is needed before the pipeline could be built. However, yet again, all their efforts have been thwarted.
Judge Boasberg dismissed their argument, claiming more harm than good would come from revealing all pipeline spill data and is allowing shielding of documents that include details like pipeline maps at certain crossings, detecting and shutting down spills, maps of spill scenario, graphs of spill risk scores, oil spill volume predictions and some other details related to monitoring systems.
Currently, there have been 740 arrests of anti-pipeline activists in North Dakota since August. There have also been reports of damage to company equipment in Iowa and North Dakota during construction. In March, someone burned holes in the pipeline at aboveground shut off valves sites but no one was arrested for the incident.
Attorneys for the native American tribes are calling this new ruling to conceal much-needed documents a “ruse” to hide the fact that no further environmental review of the pipeline is needed because it is not safe. But without the complete environmental study, the Sioux tribes are bracing themselves for the worst.