A U.S. District Judge has decided to delay a decision on whether the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) can continue operating, while the government conducts a more thorough review of the project.
At the close of Friday's hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Judge James Boasberg granted a 10-day continuance after the Biden administration declined to intervene in the case. The hearing had been delayed since February, to give the administration additional time to consider the case.
Attorneys for the Army Corps of Engineers had been expected to say whether it planned to force the pipeline to temporarily stop pumping oil. Instead, the Corps surprised Boasberg by telling the court it was "in a continuous process of evaluating the situation".
Lawyers for pipeline owner Energy Transfer asked the court for additional time to better outline the effects of recent changes in the U.S. economy.
DAPL hauls 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil each day to Midwest and Gulf Coast states. It is the largest pipeline serving the entire Bakken region.
Environmental groups and Indigenous leaders have lobbied the Biden Administration to temporarily shut off the oil. Instead, the president favors allowing the pipeline to operate, while the Corps conducts a more complete Environmental Impact Statement, which could take another 18 months to complete.
Environmental groups and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe contend the pipeline threatens the tribe's drinking water supply and should not continue to run.
During the pipeline's construction in 2016, climate activists and Native American tribes protested against DAPL for months, clashing at times with law enforcement.
Eventually, the Trump administration authorized the pipeline's permit, and it began operating in 2017.
Oil industry experts warn that U.S. crude markets will be disrupted if the primary link from the Bakken region is shut off.