Last month, unknown offenders allegedly damaged the Dakota Access Pipeline, using a torch to burn holes into both fenced and unfenced segments of the line. A federal judge cited this act of protest as the reason why the company that owns the pipeline can legally withhold certain information from the public in order to protect the infrastructure from further damage, The Associated Press reported yesterday (April 12).
Pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners can keep secret what points along the 1,172-mile route are more likely to spill. However, information on how the company would handle such spills should be public knowledge, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled on April 7.
The company is currently in a legal dispute with the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes. The tribes were hoping that information on where the pipeline faces spill risks would help make their case that the project needs further environmental study.
Other details the judge ruled Energy Transfer can withhold from the public include pipeline maps at certain crossings, more maps of spill scenarios, graphs that measure spill risks along the pipeline, predictions on spill oil volume and how to detect and shut down spills.
“The asserted interest in limiting intentionally inflicted harm outweighs the tribes’ generalized interests in public disclosure and scrutiny,” said Boasberg.
The larger case started last year in July, but the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe launched a separate case this year after the Trump administration’s executive order to push through the pipeline. Currently, both cases remain in the courts as both tribes wait for Boasberg to make an expedited ruling after filing summary judgement earlier this year. The judge has yet to set a ruling date.