The Environment Impact Statement from the Dakota Access Pipeline is now receiving public comments.
A standard pipeline EIS proceeds as follows:
- Notice of Intent (official announcement of the EIS) is issued.
- Scoping Period (public input on which impacts and project alternatives should be studied).
- Army Corps drafts EIS document.
- Draft EIS is published, and the public is invited to comment (on whether the report is complete or which alternative is best).
- EIS is modified based on public comment.
- Final EIS is published (possibly with another comment period).
- Army Corps decides whether or not to approve a permit for the pipeline crossing.
Though the EIS process itself cannot deny the pipeline, the environmental information gathered through the process can be used by the Army Corps to deny a permit if the project is “injurious to the public interest”—in other words, if the project’s impacts outweigh its benefits.
One problem with that is past EISs have only looked at environmental impacts to the immediate project site and surrounding area (in this case, the sliver of land that the Army Corps owns and Lake Oahe). On the other hand, the Army Corps will be weighing those spatially-limited impacts against the overall benefits of the project, such as jobs and tax revenue.
If this seems like an unequal comparison to you, now is your chance to speak up and say so.
The EIS Notice of Intent was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18. During the 32-day scoping period that began simultaneously, the Army Corps is reaching out to the public for input on which environmental impacts should be studied within the EIS, and what the alternatives to Dakota Access’ “preferred route” should be. Unlike the second comment period, this first comment period is solely to decide what the scope of analysis should be.
Send your public comments by Feb. 20 to:
Mr. Gib Owen
Subject Line: “NOI Comments, Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing”
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Dakota Access pipeline crossing. I have grave concerns that the scope ignores key impacts that the Army Corps’ approval would cause, and that the “no-action” alternative, as proposed in the environmental assessment, does not constitute a realistic alternative.
The EA’s no-action alternative assumes that, if the pipeline is not built, the oil will be transported by truck or rail instead. This argument is flawed, however. The EA itself points out on page 5 that truck transportation is not realistic, and goes on to state that rail transportation would require massive infrastructure investments, far larger than any currently existing in the United States. For these reasons, the no-action alternative should assume that the oil is not extracted, as there will be no realistic way to transport it to the intended markets.
Additionally, the Council on Environmental Quality has directed federal agencies to evaluate projects’ direct and indirect, long- and short-term, and broad-scale greenhouse gas and climate change impacts through the EIS process. Approving this crossing would complete the project, allowing a flow of oil that, when all is accounted for, would have the same annual CO2 emissions as 29 coal-fired power plants. These emissions would have a significant impact on air quality, water quality, human health, and wildlife, and would not occur if this pipeline crossing was denied. Please evaluate these impacts as part of your review, in accordance with the guidance provided by CEQ.
Finally, I support your decision to include a thorough analysis of the effects of an oil spill on Lake Oahe and the people of Standing Rock. Even the strictest precautions today will wear with age, as we have seen with other projects where poor maintenance led to disastrous results. The impacts of a spill on the local population and environment cannot be discounted—a spill 30 years from now would be just as impactful as a spill on day one, and should be treated as a near-certainty in the requestor’s preferred alternative.
Thank you again, and I look forward to your inclusion of the project’s full impacts, as well as a no-action alternative that takes into account the infeasibility of other forms of oil transportation.
Read more here. And please consider contributing public comments on the nature of the project.