The Dakota Access pipeline owned by Energy Transfer Partners is a crude oil pipeline operating since 2017, while the Keystone XL pipeline is a Canada-US tar sands pipeline project proposed to be built by TC Energy


Energy Transfer's Dakota Access pipeline is an 1,886km long crude oil pipeline. (Credit: Carl Wycoff from Nevada, USA/

Two top courts in the US in separate decisions have ruled against the $3.78bn Dakota Access pipeline and the $8bn Keystone XL pipeline, both on environmental grounds.

A federal judge at the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Dakota Access pipeline owned by Energy Transfer Partners should be shut down and its oil has to emptied by a deadline of 5 August 2020.

The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes have been challenging federal approvals given to the crude oil pipeline, which has been transporting oil under Lake Oahe.

The court has made the US Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant approval to the pipeline to be constructed beneath Lake Oahe as invalid. This was because the Corps did not produce an environmental impact statement despite conditions that triggered such a requirement for granting the approval, said the court.

The 1,886km long Dakota Access pipeline, also called the Bakken pipeline, has been carrying light sweet crude oil from the Bakken/Three Forks production region in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois since June 2017.

Energy Transfer’s reaction to the judgement on the Dakota Access pipeline

Energy Transfer said that the ruling in the US District Court for the District of Columbia is not backed by the law or the facts of the case, and that the judge had crossed his authority in ordering the shutdown of the pipeline, which has been operating safely for more than three years.

In a statement, Energy Transfer said: “We will be immediately pursuing all available legal and administrative processes and are confident that once the law and full record are fully considered Dakota Access Pipeline will not be shut down and that oil will continue to flow.

“We intend to immediately file a motion to stay this decision and if not granted, to pursue a stay and expedited appeal with the Court of Appeals. We also believe that the Army Corps of Engineers has the ultimate jurisdiction over this matter, pursuant to its regulations governing Corps property.”

Keystone XL pipeline gets unfavourable ruling from US Supreme Court

On the other hand, the US Supreme Court has given an unfavourable ruling to the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,900km long Canada-US tar sands pipeline project proposed to be built by TC Energy.

The apex court turned down a request from TC Energy and the Trump administration to allow the pipeline project to move ahead under a key water crossing permit. In April 2020, the US District Court in Montana ruled that the Nationwide Permit 12 issued by the Army Corps of Engineers violated the Endangered Species Act.

Previously, the same court blocked the construction on the Keystone XL pipeline on environmental grounds, a decision which was upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.