US Army Corps holds off endorsing Dakota Access oil pipe alternative

FILE PHOTO: Indigenous youths protest the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Line 3 pipeline in Washington, U.S.

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Energy Transfer's Dakota Access oil pipeline that evaluated but made no recommendation of five alternatives, including abandoning or rerouting the pipeline.

A U.S. court last year ordered the federal government to undertake a more intensive environmental study of the 1,100-mile (1,800-km) long pipeline's route under a lake that straddles the border of North Dakota and South Dakota.

The Army Corps has not selected a preferred alternative among the five and would make its selection only after public and agency comments were received and a final version prepared, the draft report said.

The long-delayed draft EIS suggested alternatives include denying an easement and removing the pipeline through excavation or abandoning the pipeline in place. An easement was previously granted for the pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe, a federally protected reservoir, and the pipeline has continued to operate while the review is being carried out.

Other alternatives considered were: granting an easement with the same conditions as the previous easement or with additional conditions. A final alternative weighted the impact of rerouting, which would require current shippers on the pipeline to likely transport oil via trucks or railcars during the permitting and construction process.

Energy Transfer was not immediately available for a comment.

The pipeline, which can transport up to 750,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois, has been the subject of a lengthy court battle between Native American tribes and pipeline operator Energy Transfer.

The tribes have opposed the pipeline, saying they draw water from the lake for various purposes, including drinking, and consider the waters of the Missouri River to be sacred. Their lawyers have said the tribes are worried about a potential oil spill.

(Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Editing by Marguerita Choy)