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An Illinois appellate court has set aside a decision by state regulators that would allow the Dakota Access oil pipeline to double capacity to 1.1 million barrels daily.

In a 60-page decision filed Wednesday, the appellate court’s three-judge panel ordered the Illinois Commerce Commission to review the public need for the project that moves North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois. The court said the commission must consider the public need “for the people of the United States, not the world.”

The court said regulators must also consider regulatory violations in Pennsylvania by Sunoco, one of the pipeline’s owners.

It ordered Illinois regulators to issue a new decision within 11 months, while restricting the pipeline’s capacity to 570,000 barrels per day.

The $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile (1,886 kilometer) underground pipeline has been moving oil since 2017. It was subject to prolonged protests and hundreds of arrests during its construction in North Dakota in late 2016 and early 2017 because it crosses beneath the Missouri River, just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The tribe draws its water from the river and fears pollution.

Texas-based Energy Transfer, which built the pipeline, has insisted it would be safe and that the expansion would be, too.

Opponents argue that moving more oil through the pipeline increases the probability of a disastrous oil spill.

North Dakota regulators in 2020 unanimously approved expanded capacity for the Dakota Access pipeline from 570,000 barrels daily to 1.1 million barrels, saying they believed the project had met exhaustive state and federal requirements. Pipeline backers said the expansion was needed to meet the growing demand for oil shipments from North Dakota, without the need for additional pipelines or rail shipments.

Additional pump stations were needed in the Dakotas and Illinois to add horsepower to push more oil through the line. Regulators in those states approved the additional stations.

In Illinois, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and others protested the commission’s approval, sending it to the appellate court.

Pipeline owners announced last summer that the line was able to transport 750,000 barrels a day along the line. But North Dakota Pipeline Authority Director Justin Kringstad said Thursday that amount likely has not been achieved to date.

North Dakota’s oil production is 1.1 million barrels daily at present. Rail and other pipelines ship oil that doesn’t move on the Dakota Access pipeline.


The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of a woman who left home in Alabama to join the Islamic State terror group, but then decided she wanted to return to the United States.

The justices declined without comment on Monday to consider the appeal of Hoda Muthana, who was born in New Jersey in October 1994 to a diplomat from Yemen and grew up in Alabama near Birmingham.

Muthana left the U.S. to join the Islamic State in 2014, apparently after becoming radicalized online.

While she was overseas the government determined she was not a U.S. citizen and revoked her passport, citing her father’s status as a diplomat at the time of her birth. Her family sued to enable her return to the United States.

A federal judge ruled in 2019 that the U.S. government correctly determined Muthana wasn’t a U.S. citizen despite her birth in the country. Children of diplomats aren’t entitled to birthright citizenship. The family’s lawyers appealed, arguing that her father’s status as a diplomat assigned to the U.N. had ended before her birth, making her automatically a citizen.

Muthana surrendered to U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces as Islamic State fighters were losing the last of their self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria and going to refugee camps.

Muthana said she regretted her decision to join the group and wanted to return to the U.S. with her toddler child, the son of a man she met while living with the group. The man later died.

Her current whereabouts aren’t clear. Family attorney Christina Jump of the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America did not immediately return an email seeking comment Tuesday.

The decision to revoke her passport was made under former President Barack Obama. The case gained widespread attention as former President Donald Trump tweeted about it, saying he had directed the secretary of state not to allow her back into the country.


The longest serving magistrate in Alaska is no longer on the bench after writing letters to the editor critical of the Republican party.

Former Seward Magistrate George Peck wrote four letters to the editor of the Anchorage Daily News, the latest in December which claimed the Republican party “is actively trying to steer the U.S. into an authoritarian kleptocracy.”

The other letters written since 2019 have been critical of former President Donald Trump and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, both Republicans, and the GOP, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Peck did not note his judicial position when signing in the letters, and there have been no complaints filed against him. However, his supervisor, Anchorage Superior Court Judge William Morse, ordered the court’s human resources department to investigate.

Morse said in a formal decision last Wednesday that Peck’s letter was in violation of Alaska’s code of judicial conduct.

“As a magistrate judge, the public entrusts you to decide cases with the utmost fairness, independence and impartiality. The power of your own voice, even when expressed off the bench, can become inextricably tied to your position, especially in a small community where you are the sole judicial officer,” Morse said.

When the 81-year-old Peck was informed Wednesday that he would be fired two days later, he instead immediately submitted his resignation and worked his last day Thursday.

Peck told the Anchorage newspaper that he doesn’t regret the letter and said he was just “stating a fact that the Republican Party tried to overturn the election, which I think most people agree on.”

He also doesn’t blame the juridical system for forcing him out.

“Clearly, they were justified in doing what they’re doing,” Peck said. “I just think they could have found a little better way to do it, but that’s up to them.”

Peck began working as a magistrate judge in 1976 and retired from full-time work in 2016. The court system kept him working on a temporary, part-time basis.

Magistrates oversee minor judicial matters in the court system, such as traffic violations, small-claims cases and time-sensitive matters, such as search warrants and domestic violence cases.


A Wisconsin judge on Monday rejected an attempt by the state’s Democratic attorney general to block a subpoena issued by a Republican-hired attorney seeking to interview the state’s chief elections administrator and obtain election-related documents and data as part of a GOP-ordered investigation.

The ruling from Dane County Circuit Judge Rhonda Lanford is a partial victory for Michael Gableman, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who was hired last year by Republicans to investigate the 2020 election. It means that he can move forward — at least for now — with a closed-door interview with the state’s top elections official, Meagan Wolfe, even as other legal battles over his authority are pending.

President Joe Biden won Wisconsin by nearly 21,000 votes, an outcome that has withstood recounts and numerous lawsuits. An Associated Press review of battleground states contested by Trump, including Wisconsin, found too few cases of fraud to affect the outcome.

Republicans have called for a number of election reviews, including the ongoing one led by Gableman. The Legislature’s nonpartisan Audit Bureau found no widespread fraud and neither did a report by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.

In a blow to Gableman on Monday, the judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit as he requested and said she could reconsider her decision later if he attempts to enforce the subpoenas before the legal challenge to the subpoenas runs its course.


An Ohio judge has acquitted a certified nurse practitioner of involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the 2017 death of a man at a Columbus nursing home, the second acquittal since the indictment of seven workers at the facility.

A Franklin County judge acquitted 55-year-old Kimberly Potter of Delaware of all charges Wednesday, ruling that prosecutors had failed to make their case and the defense didn’t need to respond, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Defense attorney Gregory Peterson called it “an ill-conceived prosecution from the very beginning.”

The Ohio Attorney General’s office indicted Potter and six nursing home employees in 2019 on patient neglect and records tampering counts; three were charged with involuntary manslaughter in the March 2017 death at Whetstone Gardens and Care Center on the city’s northwest side. The indictments alleged failure to treat serious wounds on the patient who died, and falsification and forged signatures about treatment in a second case.

In October, a county jury acquitted Jessica Caldwell, 33, a floor nurse and unit manager at the nursing home, of involuntary manslaughter and gross patient neglect in connection with the death.

“From the beginning, Whetstone vehemently disagreed with any suggestion that our employees contributed to the tragic death of a former patient,” said Ryan Stubenrauch, spokesman for the nursing home.


Voters in the home state of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chávez are casting ballots again Sunday in a special gubernatorial election called after the opposition contender in November’s regular contest was retroactively disqualified as he was ahead in the vote count.

The contenders in the northwestern state of Barinas include a local opposition leader, an opposition dissident and a former foreign minister. For the first time in more than two decades, no member of Chávez’s family is on the ballot.

The disqualification of Freddy Superlano by the country’s highest court and the scheduling of the special contest raised further doubts about the fairness of Venezuela’s electoral system following the first vote in years in which most major political parties took part.

Superlano was disqualified Nov. 29 while he was ahead by less than a percentage point over incumbent Argenis Chávez, one of Hugo Chávez’s brothers. The high court, which is one of many government bodies seen as loyal to the government of President Nicolas Maduro, ignored a presidential pardon that had made Superlano and other members of the opposition eligible to run.

Barinas has long been a bastion of Chavismo, with his brother Argenis Chávez, brother Adán Chávez and father Hugo de los Reyes Chávez all serving stints as governor since 1998.

But the pull of the late president, who founded Venezuela’s ruling socialist movement, proved weak on Nov. 21. Residents said afterward that many people in Barinas are angry over long facing serious gasoline shortages, a lack basic services like gas, water and electricity, deficient health care services and hunger from food scarcity.

Argenis Chávez resigned as governor following Superlano’s disqualification and did not enter the race in the special election. The ruling party then chose former foreign minister Jorge Arreaza as its candidate.

In addition to Superlano’s disqualification, his wife, who was chosen as his successor, was disqualified. So was her substitute.

Sunday’s ballot also includes Sergio Garrido, candidate for the U.S.-backed opposition, and Claudio Fermin, an opposition dissident.


Jury trials have been halted in Indiana’s most populous county after dozens of court employees tested positive for COVID-19 amid a statewide surge driven by the fast-spreading omicron variant.

All jury trials in Marion County will be delayed and reset to dates after Jan. 21, the Executive Committee of the Marion Superior Court and the Judge of the Circuit Court announced Thursday.

Jury trials were previously put on hold in late 2020 but started again in March 2021, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Court officials said in a news release that the use of face coverings will be “strictly enforced” and limits will be placed on occupancy capacity throughout the courthouse.

Nearly 40 court staff members, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, have tested positive for the virus since Monday. The courts employ about 500 people.

Judges noted in their news release that Marion County’s positivity rate stands at 35.45 percent, which places it in the “high risk” category. “We will continue to monitor the status of the local health conditions and update our operations based upon those conditions in the future,” the release states.

The fast-spreading omicron variant has pushed Indiana’s number of confirmed COVID-19 infections to an average of nearly 10,000 a day, according to state Health Department tracking.

The surge has left Indiana’s hospitals facing their highest-ever overall patient loads.

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