The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe, which is located on the Missouri River in North Dakota, the federal agency said Sunday. Instead, the Corps will explore alternative routes for the controversial pipeline project, which has drawn thousands of demonstrators to North Dakota in protest of the current route.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies near the current pipeline project route, says the pipeline would endanger local drinking water supplies.

Jo-Ellen Darcy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, said: “"Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do. The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."

Darcy said the consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an environmental impact statement with full public input and analysis.

The 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline would connect the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to a crude oil terminal in Illinois. It would transport 470,000 barrels of oil per day, with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels. The current proposed pipeline route would cross Lake Oahe on the Missouri River.

Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the $3.8 billion pipeline, said last month the project was 84% complete.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the North Dakota governor’s office had ordered thousands of protestors to leave the project site near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation by Monday.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch said in a statement that the "thoughtful approach established by the Army today ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts, as envisioned by NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act]. The Army's announcement underscores that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward."

Energy Transfer Partners announced last month it was seeking federal court intervention to stop what it called “political interference” with the project. Energy Transfer Partners said it was seeking “a judgment declaring that Dakota Access Pipeline has the legal right-of-way to build, complete and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline without any further action from the Army Corps of Engineers… In these actions, Dakota Access Pipeline is requesting the court to confirm that the Corps has already granted all of the relevant authorizations and given Dakota Access Pipeline its right-of-way to finish the pipeline beneath the federal land that borders Lake Oahe in North Dakota, a result of its prior actions in granting a permit to allow Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River at Lake Oahe.”

Energy Transfer Partners is being acquired by Sunoco Logistics Partners in an all-stock deal valued at $19.93 billion. Industrial Info is tracking projects valued at more than $22.7 billion involving Sunoco Logistics and Energy Transfer Partners.

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