Judge Brad Zell delivered a pleasant, if unexpected, surprise to Lincoln County landowners opposing early survey access for Dakota Access during a hearing in Canton on Thursday, Aug. 13.
In July, Judge Mark Salter ruled in favor of Dakota Access in a similar case brought by Minnehaha County landowners.
“The pipeline [company] wanted early access for survey purposes and soil samples” ahead of the Public Utilities Commission’s ruling on their construction permit to build the pipeline, explained David Edwards, an attorney representing the Lincoln County families at last week’s hearing. “It was a really big sigh of relief for the [Lincoln County] families, but the same argument didn’t go our way in Minnehaha County, so it was a pleasant surprise.”
The PUC is scheduled to hear testimony Sept. 29 through the first week of October and must make a final decision on whether to grant or deny Dakota Access a construction permit that will allow part of an 1,100-mile long pipeline to carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken fields through South Dakota on its way to Illinois and Texas refineries. The decision must be rendered by mid-December, the one-year mark after the company filed a request for the construction permit for the South Dakota section of the build.
Although Dakota Access could appeal Judge Zell’s ruling for Lincoln County and the Minnehaha County families could appeal Judge Salter’s ruling, Edwards says the cases would likely be dismissed by the Supreme Court due to the little time left available before the PUC’s decision would render further cases moot points.