The US Army Corps of Engineers has approved the final easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline and will issue it as soon as Wednesday afternoon, the federal agency said Tuesday.
Paul Cramer, deputy assistant secretary of the Army, said in a notice to Congress that the Corps would waive a two-week waiting period often observed between congressional notification and the issuance of the easement.
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The approval will allow Dakota Access to finish a section underneath Lake Oahe, a dammed section of the Missouri River in North Dakota that became the focal point of months of protests against the project.
The delayed 470,000 b/d Bakken crude oil project could start commercial service no sooner than early May, based on a timeline the company's lawyer gave in court Monday. He said the pipeline can have oil flowing under Lake Oahe within 60 days of receiving the easement and start commercial operations within 83 days.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
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The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is expected to continue challenging the pipeline in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, potentially seeking an emergency order to prevent the line from going into service. It argues the project threatens its sacred land and drinking water supply.
"The Obama administration correctly found that the tribe's treaty rights needed to be respected, and that the easement should not be granted without further review and consideration of alternative crossing locations," Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice lawyer representing the tribe, said Tuesday.
"Trump's reversal of that decision continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian tribes and violation of treaty rights. They will be held accountable in court."
Senator John Hoeven, Republican-North Dakota, said the project has the latest safeguards and technology.
"Going forward, we need to review the permitting process to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to be heard and that a fair, certain, and legal process has been followed," he said in a statement. "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."
President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum January 24 directing the Corps to "review and approve" Dakota Access "in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, and with such conditions as are necessary or appropriate."
The four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline is designed to deliver Bakken and Three Forks crude to Patoka, Illinois, where it connects with the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline to Texas.
Energy Transfer Partners, Sunoco Logistics and Phillips 66 own shares in the project. Enbridge Energy Partners and Marathon Petroleum announced plans in August to acquire a major stake, but that deal has not closed.This version of the story has been updated to add reaction, details throughout.
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