US Army to grant final permit for controversial Dakota pipeline -court filing

WASHINGTON/HOUSTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will grant the final easement needed to finish the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, according to a court filing Tuesday.

The line had been delayed for several months after protests from Native American tribes and climate activists. The $3.8 billion line, which is being built by Energy Transfer Partners <ETP.N>, needed a final permit to tunnel under Lake Oahe, a reservoir that is part of the Missouri River.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation is adjacent to the line's route, has said it will fight the decision. The Army Corps had previously stated that it would undertake further environmental review of the project. The tribe was not immediately available for comment.

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Protesters stand on heavy machinery after halting work on the Energy Transfer Partners Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
A modified highway sign reads 'No Pipeline' near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is slated to cross the nearby Missouri River, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Native Americans ride with raised fists to a sacred burial ground that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline slated to cross the nearby Missouri River, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
People on horses are seen at the encampment September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is slated to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota to refineries in Illinois. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Phil Little Thunder Sr attends an evening gathering at an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe (DAPL), near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on September 3, 2016. The Indian reservation in North Dakota is the site of the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. Indigenous people from across the US are living in camps on the Standing Rock reservation as they protest the construction of the new oil pipeline which they fear will destroy their water supply. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Boys enjoy a later afternoon horseback ride at an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe (DAPL), near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on September 3, 2016. The Indian reservation in North Dakota is the site of the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. Indigenous people from across the US are living in camps on the Standing Rock reservation as they protest the construction of the new oil pipeline which they fear will destroy their water supply. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
The Missouri River is seen beyond an encampment September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is slated to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota to refineries in Illinois. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
People sign a teepee with words of support for protestors at an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe (DAPL), near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on September 3, 2016. The Indian reservation in North Dakota is the site of the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. Indigenous people from across the US are living in camps on the Standing Rock reservation as they protest the construction of the new oil pipeline which they fear will destroy their water supply. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Native Americans march to a burial ground sacred site that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline that is slated to cross the Missouri River nearby, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Nantinki Young of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, the head cook supervising all the kitchens poses for a photograph at an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe (DAPL), near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on September 3, 2016. The Indian reservation in North Dakota is the site of the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. Indigenous people from across the US are living in camps on the Standing Rock reservation as they protest the construction of the new oil pipeline which they fear will destroy their water supply. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Evan Butcher of the Chippewa Tribe plays basketball with younger boys September 4, 2016 at the encampment near Cannon Ball, North Dakota where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is slated to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota to refineries in Illinois. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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The 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line will bring crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken shale region to Patoka, Illinois, and from there connect to the Gulf of Mexico, where many U.S. refineries are located.

The tribe had fought the line for months, fearing contamination of their drinking water and damage to sacred sites on their land. This one-mile stretch under the river was the last uncompleted section of the line; the pipeline is expected to be operational late in the second quarter.

"The discord we have seen regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline doesn't serve the tribe, the company, the Corps or any of the other stakeholders involved. Now, we all need to work together to ensure people and communities rebuild trust and peacefully resolve their differences," said John Hoeven, Republican senator from North Dakota, in a statement.

Numerous activists who have been protesting in North Dakota have vowed to stay, although the primary protest camp is located on a flood plain on Army Corps land and is in the process of being cleared.

Their protests, along with those of climate activists, resulted in the Obama administration's decision to delay a final permit that would allow construction under the Missouri River. It also ordered an environmental assessment, but that will not be conducted following Tuesday's decision.

A memo dated Tuesday from Douglas Lamont, a senior official with the Army's Civil Works department, said that he believes there is "no cause for completing any additional environmental analysis," in part because of previous assessments by the Corps in 2016.

The Army informed the chairs and ranking members of the House Natural Resources and Senate Energy & Natural Resources committees of their intent in a letter on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump, days after being sworn in, issued an executive order directing the U.S. Army Corps to smooth the path to finishing the line. Tuesday's filing was made in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.

Shares of Energy Transfer Partners were down before the news. The stock finished up 20 cents to $39.60 a share.

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