Beulah, WA (Ars Technica) — A land realtor in the Northwest state of Washington has sold his dream land to an oil and gas company, bringing to an end a decades-long fight between local residents and an oil drilling company that was trying to build a large-scale, $30 billion drilling project in the area.
Kirby, a small town of just over 7,000 people, is located in a part of the state known for its oil and natural gas deposits.
The town, along with nearby Beulampuram and other towns and villages, is home to a group of community members who have worked to protect the land for over 100 years.
That protection, in addition to a long history of oil and mineral exploration, has helped the town thrive.
But after years of lobbying by residents and landowners, oil and energy company Dakota Access recently tried to take control of the town by building a huge well pad in the town, an attempt that was eventually stopped by local activists.
The fight has since spilled over into the national debate about the national park, with the federal government’s National Park Service (NPS) issuing a preliminary decision in late May saying that the project violated a 1906 law that requires protecting national monuments and wildlife refuges.
The NPS issued the preliminary decision after the U.S. Supreme Court in May granted an emergency injunction blocking Dakota Access from drilling into the park, and following a request from Kirby Mayor John Kornfield, who said the project would threaten his community.
The National Park Foundation, which was hired to advise the NPS, was also contacted by the residents to assist with the appeal, according to Kornstein.
But the foundation’s legal counsel told Ars that it would not be able to do so until after the court ruling.
Kornstein has repeatedly expressed his concern that the park could be lost to the drilling industry if Dakota Access’s well pads are allowed to proceed.
The National Park Board, which includes a chairperson appointed by the president and vice chairperson by the governor, has previously said that it will continue to work with the Nps to help ensure the safety and protection of the land.
But in the meantime, the NPs initial decision in May means that Dakota Access can proceed with the drilling.
The NPS did not respond to Ars’ request for comment.
The project is scheduled to begin drilling in 2019, with a completion date of 2025.
Kirk Johnson, a spokesman for the Naps executive director, told Ars on Wednesday that the Nabs decision is not a “final determination” and that the agency would consider all of the relevant facts before deciding whether or not to approve the drilling project.
The board has “the full ability to intervene,” he said, but “the Nps will consider all the information and circumstances surrounding this application and will make its final decision based on all relevant information.”
Kirbys appeal of the NSP’s decision will go to the Supreme Court of the United States, where it could either decide to hear or reject the appeal.
If the court agrees with the case, it could set a legal precedent for the entire country.
“This is a win-win,” said Kirbys attorney, Ben Siegel.
“This is about protecting the land, but also preserving a part, a sacred piece of land that is home not just to the citizens of Kirbys town, but the people of Beulabam, the people in the city, the community members, the ranchers, the fishermen, and all of us that live here.
That’s why we’re so excited that the Supreme Courts is going to hear the case.”