The United States’ biggest oil company has begun pumping oil into a contentious Dakota Access pipeline, a move that may prove costly for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and potentially damage its water supply.
On Tuesday, BP announced it would spend $20 billion to pump and transport the oil from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, through South Dakota and Nebraska.
The company plans to transport the crude to a terminal in the Dakotas, where it will be shipped through a pipeline to a refinery near Minneapolis, which will then be converted to gasoline for sale in the Midwest.
It was the second such oil shipment this month and the largest such shipment in the company’s history, BP said.
The company also said it would begin work on a third pipeline that would carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois, the Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries.
But both of those pipelines are likely to face opposition from Native Americans and environmental groups.
The decision to proceed with the Dakota Access project was made amid a national debate over the pipeline’s construction.
The Army Corps of Engineers has not yet made a decision on the pipeline, which the Sioux tribe is fighting over.
The Standing Rock tribe and other Native Americans have long argued that the pipeline would destroy their cultural heritage and would threaten their drinking water, a claim that the tribe disputes.
A federal judge in North Dakota ruled in October that the Army Corps did not have the authority to issue a permit for the pipeline.
The pipeline is part of an ambitious pipeline system that the Corps of Energy and Army Corps have been building in North and South Dakota since the late 1970s.
It was built to transport crude from the Bakken oil fields to the Gulf Coast.
The Corps said in a court filing last week that it was delaying its approval until it can determine whether the pipeline will be economically viable.