DALLAS, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The partnership behind the Dakota Access Pipeline said a weekend decision to block further construction was political interference from Washington.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said during the weekend it would not approve an easement for further construction to bridge Lake Oahe in North Dakota. Jo-Ellen Darcy, an Army assistant secretary for civil works, said the decision stemmed in part from water-quality concerns expressed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota.
"Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," she said in a statement. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."
The planned 1,172-mile pipeline could have a peak capacity of about 470,000 barrels of shale oil per day. State regulators in North Dakota say there's not enough pipeline capacity to transport the amount of crude oil coming out of the Bakken and Three Forks oil reservoir.
Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, the companies behind the pipeline's construction, said it was clear the federal government was delaying the project until the end of President Barack Obama's term in office.
"In spite of consistently stating at every turn that the permit for the crossing of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe granted in July 2016, comported with all legal requirements, including the use of an environmental assessment, rather than an environmental impact statement, the Army Corps now seeks to engage in additional review and analysis of alternative locations for the pipeline," the partners said in a statement.
A federal appeals court in October backed a lower court's ruling that construction could proceed in the face of challenges to the extent of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' consultation with tribal groups concerned about the sanctity of sacred sites.
The U.S. Departments of Justice, the Army and the Interior issued an order temporarily halting pipeline construction in the Lake Oahe area, the place at the center of the tribe's concerns, earlier this year
Jack Gerard, the head of the American Petroleum Institute, the industry's strongest lobbying group, said the fate of the pipeline may rest in the hands of President-elect Donald Trump.
"I am troubled, though not surprised, that the Obama administration is again putting politics over sound public policy and ignoring the rule of law," he said.
Trump himself intervened in the business decisions of Carrier Corp. The manufacturer of heating and ventilation systems agreed to keep some of jobs at a plant in Indiana, rather than moving them to Mexico.
The 1,110-foot crossing of the Missouri River is the last hurdle for the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline.