1 of 5 | The U.S. Supreme Court building is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied an appeal by the owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline seeking to overturn a ruling ordering an environmental review for the controversial project.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer, runs nearly 1,200 miles underground from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa, ending in Illinois.
The embattled project has for years been the subject of intense protest from environmentalist groups and members of Native American communities, including the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Opponents warn that an oil spill would be catastrophic for the land and the people who live on it
Dakota Access, a company controlled by the pipeline's owner, had appealed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's decision last year, which affirmed a federal judge's order in 2020 for an environmental impact review of the project. The review began in September 2020 and is expected to end by November after several extensions of completion timeline.
The Supreme Court's decision Tuesday lets the D.C. Circuit's decision stand.
Letting the lower court's decision stand "would establish a novel precedent of breathtaking scope that could delay or thwart any number of other national infrastructure projects," Dakota Access lawyers told the U.S. Supreme Court.
Opposing the appeal were the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Sioux tribe, who claimed the action saying it lacked merit.
The pipeline was completed in 2017 despite the tribe's protests and lawsuits on environmental and religious grounds.
The Obama administration had blocked it over similar concerns, but five years ago then-President Donald Trump signed executive order to resume the project.
In a blow to the Trump administration and victory for the tribe in 2020, a federal judge ordered the shutdown of the pipeline until an environmental review could be completed.
Last year, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the need for an environmental impact review, but also reversed the district's court order directing the pipeline to be shut down and emptied.
U.S. government attorney Ben Schifman indicated last year the Corps does not plan on shutting down the pipeline during the environmental review, but added that decision may change in the future pending "continuing discretion."