FACT CHECK: Does the Dakota Access Pipeline need to be shut down during additional environmental review?

The University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt News published an opinion column calling for the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 1,172 mile crude oil pipeline that runs from North Dakota to Illinois, to be shut down as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts an additional environmental impact statement (EIS) on the pipeline as ordered by a federal judge last week. The column reads:

Until a more in-depth environmental statement is complete, we will not know the full scope of the pipeline’s risks. It’s possible that the USACE was accurate in its findings, but it’s also possible that the tribe’s concerns are valid. If this is the case, then the pipeline is a serious threat to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as well as the environment. Until the USACE answers these questions — if they can — the pipeline must be shut down.

To make matters worse, the court-mandated environmental impact statement will not be a quick undertaking. Because of the nature of the review, the study is expected to take years to complete. This means that if not shut down while the review is being done, the pipeline could have years to run without knowing the full risks. It’s bad enough that we don’t know the true problems with the pipeline right now — we shouldn’t allow the pipeline to continue for years until the new statement is done.



The Dakota Access Pipeline has been safely operating for nearly three years – efficiently transporting up to 570,000 barrels of oil per day from the oil-producing Bakken region in North Dakota to the Patoka Oil Terminal in southern Illinois. Since coming into service in 2017, the pipeline has been critical in transporting and increasing access to record production coming out of the Bakken to consumer markets across the United States.

The Pitt News column claims regulators do not understand the full risk at hand. However, everything involves risk. Simple everyday tasks like crossing the street involves risk. But DAPL has taken significant measures beyond industry standards to mitigate such risk, and both the Army Corps and respective state regulators conducted extensive review processes before ultimately approving construction of the pipeline. The Corps’ previous 1,261 page environmental assessment (EA) had been deemed adequate and issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact” or “FONSI.” Importantly, the diligence of both state and federal regulators paired with the latest technology and thorough safety measures has led to the safe operation of DAPL for nearly three years.

Despite this finding and DAPL’s safe operation, environmentalists and local indigenous tribes have continued to oppose the permitted operation of the pipeline based on ideological opposition to the use of traditional fuel sources like oil.

Should DAPL be shut down for the multi-year duration while the Corps conducts additional review, the industry will be forced to rely on riskier, less efficient alternatives of transport like truck and rail. As we discuss mitigating risk, both regulators and the industry have conducted extensive cost-benefit analyses comparing delivery options.

Such analysis only further confirms that pipelines are the safest, most efficient, and most environmentally-conscious method of delivering the energy that American consumers rely on each day. In fact, they safely deliver 99.99% of oil transported without incident and an analysis from the Fraser Institute affirms that pipelines are the safest method of transport, finding that rail was “over 4.5 times more likely to experience an occurrence when compared to pipelines.”

While activists opine on the supposed “risks” of continuing to operate the Dakota Access Pipeline – it is critical that they carefully consider the alternatives should DAPL be put on pause as the multi-year EIS is conducted.