Heartland Institute Experts React to Court Ruling Keeping Dakota Access Pipeline Open

Published August 6, 2020

ARLINTON HEIGHTS, IL (August 6, 2020) – The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday ruled that the Dakota Access Pipeline can remain in operation, reversing a decision by a federal judge that would have had the pipeline drained of all crude oil and shut down this week.

The $3.8 billion pipeline, which has been in operation since 2017, transports shale oil from the Bakken formation in northwest North Dakota to southern Illinois. For years, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in South Dakota has fought to have the pipeline closed, saying it endangers their reservation, which the pipeline passes underground a half-mile from its border.

The following statements from energy and environment experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Deputy Director of Communications Keely Drukala at [email protected] and 312/377-4000 or (cell) 312/282-1390.

“The pipeline has transported millions of barrels of oil, at 570,000 barrels per day, without incident since it first began operating in 2017. Shutting it down and forcing its operators to drain it would cause millions of dollars in lost revenues and disrupted oil supplies to key segments of the country.

“Fortunately, the Court of Appeals recognized the District Court had overstepped its authority in ordering the pipeline shutdown and drained, writing in its opinion that the district judge had failed to consider the harm to the public interest the shutdown would cause. Unfortunately, the appeals court did not go even further and uphold the Clean Water Act permit issued by the Army Corp of Engineers, granted after a thorough environmental review. Rather, the court called for further study before deciding whether the pipeline was lawfully allowed to open. This leaves the pipeline’s future in legal limbo for the time being.”


H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, Environment & Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News
[email protected]


“The enviro-litigant Earthjustice claims the pipeline is ‘a threat to public health and clean water’ and therefore needed a new ‘environmental assessment.’ The argument for a new environmental assessment was laughable because if the pipeline had been shut down, that oil would travel by rail car, and no new environmental assessment would be made for that. There is a safety benefit in keeping the pipeline open because rail transport is far more accident-prone than a pipeline. This is just the same old tired anti-energy arguments from the same people that would be happy to see us all living in mud-huts.”

Anthony Watts
Senior Fellow
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]


“Pipelines are the safest and most efficient mode of transport for petroleum. This infrastructure is crucial to continued U.S. energy security and independence, and shutting it down could cause significant supply problems. Kudos to the U.S. Appeals Court for realizing that.

“One way or the other, this oil is going to get shipped around the country, no matter what these dirt-worshiping hippies feel about it. If they really cared about the environment, they would welcome oil shipped via the Dakota Access Pipeline rather than by rail. It is substantially more dangerous to transport oil by rail, which is the only other feasible possibility without a pipeline.”

Tim Benson
Policy Analyst
The Heartland Institute
[email protected]


The Heartland Institute is a national nonprofit organization founded in 1984 and headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our website or call 312/377-4000.