Dakota Access LLC requests judge seal information from public
The company developing the Dakota Access Pipeline has filed a motion to seal or redact certain “sensitive information” from the public, saying they believe terrorists could use it to cause damage to the pipeline.
In a motion filed late on Wednesday, Dakota Access LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, asked Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court for the District of Columbia to enter a protective order that would keep 11 documents containing confidential information from the public, Buzzfeed reports.
Dakota Access argues that the information could be useful to “terrorists or others with the malicious intent to damage the pipeline in a way that maximizes harm to the environment.”
However, the plaintiffs, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) and the Cheyenne River Sioux (CRST), object to sealing two kinds of documents: geographical information on the pipeline’s route and details regarding response plans for a spill, including information on the planned capacity, flow rate, and emergency response for certain sensitive locations along the route.
The company says the recent protests make it necessary to keep their documents private, saying, “given the intense amount of public attention this pipeline has received, and the unlawful activity already experienced, there is a greater than typical risk that this information would be misused to harm the public.”
Dakota Access has agreed to make the information public if the documents are redacted, but says that the plaintiffs continue to insist that the documents be released without being censored.
Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for Earthjustice who represents the SRST, told reporters at ABC News that the documents the company wants to hide are “precisely the kinds of things that should be subject to close public scrutiny.”
“The idea that somehow this is a security risk is complete nonsense,” Hasselman said.
“Everybody knows where the pipeline is. Hiding oil spill risk analysis does nothing to protect the pipeline from terrorists. It’s absurd,” he stressed.
The Army Corps of Engineers has also objected to the company’s motion, noting that many of the documents they wish to seal have already been made public with redactions by other agencies.
Dakota Access disagrees, however, arguing that the information would “have no relevance to the Litigation,” and a protective order will not affect the ability for the plaintiffs to conduct the litigation.
The Obama administration halted construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in December, but President Donald Trump has made it a top priority to complete the construction.