Demonstrators protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the White House on Jan. 24 after President Donald Trump announced an executive order to complete the project. Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told a federal judge and Congress that it will grant final approval to finish the pipeline, which will ultimately carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 7 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump's administration has given final approval to finish the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a court filing Tuesday.
The Corps of Engineers said it will issue an outstanding easement to complete construction of the oil pipeline, which will carry crude nearly 1,200 miles underground from North Dakota to Illinois -- and cross South Dakota and Iowa in the process.
The department also informed Congress that it will grant the easement. Under former President Barack Obama, the Corps of Engineers had refused to issue the easement for the last remaining unfinished section of the line, in North Dakota, on environmental grounds.
"This is a key step toward the completion of this important infrastructure project, which has faced months of politically driven delays," North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum responded.
Construction on the pipeline has been stalled for months by protests from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmentalists concerned that the project will tarnish and contaminate the land -- and potentially the water supply, which is located just 70 miles from the pipeline.
The department also said in the filing that it will not finish an environmental review of the project that was ordered in December by Obama's administration, due to an order last month from Trump to finish the pipeline as quickly as possible.
Specifically, the easement will allow the pipeline to run beneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota, a federally-owned body of water. That section is the last major hurdle standing in the way of the line's completion.
Obama's environmental review, which sought possible alternate routes away from Lake Oahe, could have delayed the project's completion for several more months. Instead, the necessary easement could be issued as soon as Wednesday, a spokeswoman for a Trump adviser said.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is expected to challenge in court the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant the easement.
Energy Transfer, the pipeline's builder, has pledged to have the system online by June 1. Once the easement is granted, the company said, it will only take a few weeks to finish the pipeline, which is currently about 90 percent completed.