Lessons Learned from Dakota Pipeline Permitting Process

Feb 22, 2017

The permitting process for major projects is a complicated, disorganized boondagle.

The permitting process for large, multistate infrastructure construction projects is a disorganized piece-meal review by multiple federal and state agencies in which, according to an article in the The Washington Post by Steven Mufson, “no agency [is] in charge of evaluating the entire project.”

Mr. Mufson explains why the Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for issuing the final permit for the Dakota Access pipeline even though the Corps reviewed only a very small portion of the project.

“’Crude oil pipelines like Dakota Access are constructed without any overarching or centralized permitting scheme—relying instead upon piecemeal state-by-state approval, with federal permits required only where the pipeline crosses federal lands, including tribal lands or federal water,’ according to Maranda Compton, lawyer at the firm Van Ness Feldman specializing in natural resource firms and Native American law.”

The Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission all participated in the Federal review of the pipeline.

There were no procedures in place that allowed the multiple reviewing agencies to work together to formulate a cohesive review of the project.

According to “Sharon Buccino, a lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council,… ‘there wasn’t any meaningful public process.’”

Most municipalities, large and small, now have review boards where all departments involved in the construction permitting process meet with owners, contractors, and any other interested parties to review building permit requests in an efficient, organized manner.

The federal government has implemented similar procedures for large federal building projects.

Multi-state infrastructure projects should be subjected to the same integrated building permit review.


How the Army Corps of Engineers wound up in the middle of the fight over the Dakota Access pipeline. Steven Mufson, The Washington Post, Feb. 8, 2017.