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Court Orders Dakota Access Pipeline to Shut Down in Major Win for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

The decision, handed down by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Monday, is being seen as a major victory for the Native American tribes and environmentalist organizations.

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A U.S. federal court has ordered the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to immediately halt operations and evacuate all oil from the pipeline over concerns about its likely environmental impact and the potentially existential risk it poses to the land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The decision, handed down by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Monday, is being seen as a major victory for the Native American tribes and environmentalist organizations who have waged a high-profile fight to prevent the major pipeline’s route from crossing through the Standing Rock Sioux’s main water supply.

The court order also comes on the heels of the cancellation of another major U.S. pipeline project on Sunday in a stunning rebuke of the Trump administration’s push to lift environmental regulations for the benefit of domestic fossil fuel extractors.

“It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attorney Jan Hasselman in a press release. “If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.”

The ruling found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and willfully ignored the catastrophic consequences of a potential oil spill when it permitted Energy Transfer LP to construct and operate a section of the pipeline lying directly beneath Lake Oahe in South Dakota without even producing an adequate Environmental Impact Statement, reports Reuters.

“Given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease,” the order said.

The court ordered Energy Transfer to begin winding down the 570,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) pipeline within 30 days, effectively sealing off the largest artery for the transportation of crude oil from the North Dakota Bakken shale basin to the Midwest and Gulf Coast.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith described the occasion as historic for his tribe and for the myriad supporters who have supported the anti-DAPL fight over the past several years.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” Faith said. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

Energy Transfer plans to continue fighting to avoid a shutdown through legal and administrative measures, and will appeal the decision as a last resort.

It will likely take about thirteen months to produce an Environmental Impact Statement, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. However, it remains unknown whether an EIS would actually be enough to save the pipeline, which has been operating for roughly three years.

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“The Court does not reach its decision with blithe disregard for the lives it will affect. It readily acknowledges that, even with the currently low demand for oil, shutting down the pipeline will cause significant disruption to DAPL, the North Dakota oil industry, and potentially other states,” Boasberg wrote in his order.

In the meantime, the Trump administration, conservative politicians, and oil industry groups have blamed activists and accused them of seeking to sabotage the U.S. economy.

 “I’m not quite sure what they’re cheering except for perhaps the loss of jobs all throughout America,” U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told Fox Business Network.

“Shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline would have devastating consequences to North Dakota and to America’s energy security. This terrible ruling should be promptly appealed,” said Trump ally and North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer.

However, environmentalists have unabashedly hailed the pipeline setbacks as victories in the fight to prevent the potentially disastrous consequences of the pipeline’s operations.

“Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access Pipeline and other environmentally reckless fossil fuel infrastructure projects will only make billionaires richer while the rest of us suffer,” said Greenpeace USA Climate Director Janet Redman in a statement. “Today’s ruling — arriving on the heels of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline victory — may be a calamity for oil and gas executives looking to profit from the disastrous climate crisis, but it’s a huge win for those of us committed to a liveable world.”

“The past 24 hours have sent a loud and clear message to fossil fuel corporations still committed to constructing dangerous pipelines — the future does not belong to you,” Redman added.

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Environment

Rare Snowfall in Sahara Desert Covers Sand Dunes in Ice

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Known primarily for being a searing and sandy wasteland, a part of the Sahara Desert has been blanketed in snowfall – an exceedingly rare, and dazzling, winter spectacle in the treacherous dunes of the desert.

On Monday, the sands surrounding the Algerian town of Ain Sefra were covered in the white powder after the area’s temperature plummeted far below freezing, reports the Daily Mail.

While the town has seen brutal heat that’s reached up to 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperatures reached the frosty depths of below 28 degrees Fahrenheit in recent days due to a high-pressure system of cold air that has moved into the region.

The resulting snowfall resulted in “stunning patterns” being strewn across the sandy expanse, according to the report.

Brilliant photos of the event were captured by photographer Karim Bouchetata, who travelled to the North African locale, which has been dubbed the “Gateway to the Sahara” and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains some 3,000 feet above sea level.

Prior snowfall is only known to have occurred four times in the past 42 years: in 1979, 2016, 2018 and 2021.

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The Notorious ‘Gateway to Hell’ May Finally Be Sealed, Turkmenistan’s President Says

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The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has long been host to what has been dubbed the “Gateway to Hell” – a massive hole in the ground that has been smoldering for about five decades.

However, the country’s government is now moving to finally extinguish the blazing natural Darvaza gas crater which lies in the center of the huge Karakum desert.

This isn’t the first time that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has spoken of extinguishing the so-called portal to the underworld. In 2010, the strongman leader also ordered that experts investigate how best to put out the flames, which have been raging since a mishandled Soviet drilling expedition in 1971.

To prevent a disaster resulting from the spread of dangerous fumes, Soviet authorities decided it would be best to burn off the gas by setting it alight.

As a result, the 229-foot (70 meter) wide and 65-foot (20-meter) deep crater has been ablaze ever since, drawing tourists to the former Soviet country.

In 2018, the government officially renamed the pit the “Shining of Karakum.”

This week, Berdymukhamedov decried how the gas crater “negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby,” reports AFP.

“We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people,” he added in the televised statement, noting that officials must “find a solution to extinguish the fire.”

Turkmenistan is known to possess the fourth-largest known reserve of natural gas in the world, reports VICE, and its economy is dependent on the export of the raw resource.

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