Energy Transfer says not slowing construction of North Dakota pipeline

November 8, 2016 5:48 PM EST

Protester gather near a pipeline being built by a group of companies led by Energy Transfer Partners LP at a construction site in North Dakota before being confronted by police October 22, 2016. Photo courtesy Morton County Sheriff's Office/Handout via RE


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By Liz Hampton

(Reuters) - Energy Transfer Partners LP on Tuesday said it was not slowing down construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota that is contested by environmentalists and Native Americans groups.

The owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Tuesday said it was moving equipment to prepare for tunneling under Lake Oahe, the water source that has been a focus of protests, even as federal regulators have not given a go-ahead signal that the line will be able to proceed.

Army Corps spokesman Thomas O’Hara told Bloomberg News on Monday that the company had agreed to slow down construction, a statement Energy Transfer refuted.

"The statement released last night by the Army Corps was a mistake and the Army Corps intends to rescind it," Energy Transfer said in a statement released on Tuesday. "To be clear, Dakota Access Pipeline has not voluntarily agreed to halt construction of the pipeline in North Dakota."

The Army Corps of Engineers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Construction on part of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline was halted in September following protests from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others, who said the line would desecrate sacred grounds and a spill could contaminate drinking water.

President Barack Obama last week said the U.S. government was looking at ways to reroute the pipeline.

The continued construction comes amid mounting pressure from activists on banks financing the pipeline to pull their support.

Citigroup Inc on Tuesday said it had discussed its concerns with Energy Transfer Partners and urged it to reach a resolution with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Norwegian bank DNB this week said that it would reconsider its participation in the financing of the pipeline if concerns raised by Native American tribes are not addressed.

"It's clearly causing a lot of public concern and this is really a challenge to the reputation of the banks involved in this loan and how they stand on human rights and indigenous rights," said Amanda Starbuck of Rainforest Action Network, an environmental group that opposes the line.

Energy Transfer said it was confident that it will receive an easement from the Army Corps for two strips of land adjacent to Lake Oahe, and expects no significant delays in its plans to drill under the lake.

The company said also construction of the pipeline is complete on each side of Lake Oahe.

The 1,172-mile (1,885 km) pipeline would deliver oil from the Bakken shale of North Dakota to markets in the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast.

(Reporting by Liz Hampton in Houston; additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)



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