Investigative and watchdog media outlet, MuckRock, again had a Freedom of Information Act request turned down concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline, with the Army Corps of Engineers petulantly claiming the release of the full environmental impact assessment would somehow threaten public safety.
According to MuckRock, documentation was “withheld in its entirety under b(7)(f), ‘law enforcement-related information necessary to protect the physical safety of a wide range of individuals.’
“Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) have rejected a FOIA request for the ‘assessment report on the potential impact of an oil spill of the Dakota Access pipeline,’ arguing that the release of such information would people’s lives at risk.”
For its part, Army Corps attorney Damon Roberts told MuckRock and co-founder Michael Morisy in a denial letter, “The referenced document contains information related to sensitive infrastructure that if misused could endanger people’s lives and property.”
Roberts refused to edit those allegedly ‘dangerous’ details to release the document in full — instead choosing to keep the body of information undisclosed.
“I understand exempting some details,” Morisy told Huffington Post, “but knowing the impact of a natural disaster should be public. I was very disappointed.”
Withholding such information might not give the Corps pause, but considering strident opposition to Dakota Access — water protectors camped on site for months, supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe over concerns drinking water from the Missouri River’s Lake Oahe reservoir could be tainted with crude — it would seem any assessed potential for leaks is of the utmost priority.
A priority the Army Corps and Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for pipeline construction, seemed to dismiss outright in foregoing multiple requests from the Tribe to be granted consultation, not only for the integrity of the water supply, but also over potential cultural, tribal, and historical impacts.
But, in the interest of transparency in government, The Free Thought Project discovered portions of the information sought by MuckRock surreptitiously placed online in February — a full 1,261 pages, in fact, bearing the unassuming title,
“Mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact. Environmental Assessment. Dakota Access Pipeline Project. Williams, Morton, and Emmons Counties, North Dakota.”
This document, dated July 2016, indeed appears to be the official environmental assessment around which controversy continues to fly — even after recent completion of the Lake Oahe juncture, the last remaining segment of Dakota Access.
Buried in its pages are details pertaining to expected trouble points along the pipeline’s 1,172-mile route, as well as imagined impacts to sensitive ecosystems where DAPL crosses over or under bodies of water — points exclusively under Army Corps management.
Controversy surrounded Dakota Access Pipeline’s planned route under Lake Oahe, as the Standing Rock Sioux’ drinking water supply is drawn from the same body of water — ETP claimed the pipeline being situated feet beneath the bed of the lake, concerns persisted a breach would allow crude to seep uncontrollably and travel down the Missouri.
And it isn’t as if the public will be privy to future leaks and spills, as U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ruled in March that points along the pipeline at risk for spills should not be available to the public — though how a spill or leak would be handled by crews, should be.
According to the judge, referring to the less detailed environmental assessment undertaken prior to DAPL winning approval, ETP “modified the pipeline workspace and route more than a hundred times in response to cultural surveys and Tribes’ concerns regarding historic and cultural resources.”
Spill data ostensively contained in the environmental assessment could have provided the grounds for the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes to demand a time-consuming and far more comprehensive environmental impact study — one which had been promised by the Corps, but which fell by the wayside to pro-Big Oil interests upon the inauguration of industry darling, President Trump.
Thousands of water protectors, hundreds of whom camped near the contentious pipeline crossing for months in peaceful opposition, have since vacated the area — but have transferred the peaceful group effort in what came to be termed the #NoDAPL movement to multiple additional planned pipelines around the U.S. and beyond.
Incidentally, authorities in March discovered vandals had seared a hole into a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline running through South Dakota, and although authorities have not made any arrests over the incident, analysts believe that — had crude been coursing through at the time — the responsible parties would have been incinerated on the spot.
Tribal members and residents — whose property in the path of the pipeline was seized through the use of eminent domain — feel the U.S. government, Obama and Trump administrations, the Army Corps of Engineers, and, of course, Energy Transfer Partners, brought about completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline Project only through duplicitous means will be pleased to find the over 1,000 pages of information available for perusal.
Notably, and consistent with any project of this nature, an option not to construct Dakota Access appears in the introduction summary for the assessment. It appears concern another method of transport would be employed should the pipeline not be approved had provided a significant measure in Corps’ consideration.
“Under the ‘no action’ alternative, Dakota Access would not construct the DAPL Project. The ‘no action’ alternative would not provide the infrastructure necessary to transport light sweet crude oil to refining facilities. In northwest North Dakota, exploration and production of oil is a major economic activity, with crude oil production being the primary mineral resource of interest. Although the ‘no action’ alternative itself would not incur direct environmental impacts, it would also not address the existing demand to transport crude oil to refining facilities. […]
“It is purely speculative to predict the resulting effects and actions that could be taken by another company or Dakota Access’ shippers and any associated direct or indirect environmental impacts in response to the ‘no action’ alternative. However, if this alternative is implemented, it is likely that other methods of transporting crude oil to the marketplace would be implemented and anticipated effects of the ‘no action’ alternative has been carried forward in the environmental analysis of this EA to provide a comparison between it and the impacts of implementing the Preferred Alternative.”