Dakota Access court challenge denied, oil could flow by next week

Dakota Access

Dakota Access protesters gathered in New York City on March 4. Getty Images/AFP photo by Kena Betancur.

Dakota Access Pipeline endangers drinking water source: Standing Rock Sioux

On Tuesday, a federal judge denied a request by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River tribes to halt construction of the final piece of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

US District Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the contentious pipeline that is to carry crude from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota to an oil tank farm in Patoka, Illinois.

Standing Rock and other Native American tribes argued the pipeline is a danger to the tribe’s drinking water source and construction of the pipeline has damaged cultural sites.

In handing down his decision, Judge Boasberg detailed the progression of the case since it was originally filed last summer:

 

“Since last summer, the question of whether Dakota Access should route its oil pipeline near the reservations of American Indian tribes has engendered substantial debate both on the ground in North and South Dakota and here in Washington.

“… At the start of 2017, that pipeline was nearly complete, save a stretch — awaiting an easement — that was designed to run under the bed of Lake Oahe, a federally regulated waterway that forms part of the Missouri River and straddles North and South Dakota.

“Upon assuming office, President Trump directed an expedited approval process, and on February 8, the Army Corps of Engineers issued the easement that permitted Dakota Access to drill under the lake. Fearing that the presence of oil in the pipeline under Lake Oahe will cause irreparable harm to its members’ religious exercise, Cheyenne River responded with a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, in which it argues that the easement’s grant violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and requests that the Court enjoin the effect of the easement and thus the flow of oil, which is expected to commence in the next week or two.”

Believing the tribes would not be able to prevail in their lawsuit now, Boasberg denied their request to stop construction of the pipeline or stop oil from flowing through it once complete.

Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project released a statement following the decision.  He wrote “Oil should never be allowed to flow through this pipeline until the legal process has been played out in the courts.”

Iron Eyes accused the federal government and the US army of “treating the original inhabitants of this land as though we are less than human, as though our lives and lands are something to be ignored and discarded in the never-ending quest for profit.”

In April, 2016, a senior archaeologist with the Army Corps identified about 30 sites near the route of the pipeline that were of possible cultural significance, but also determined that “no historic properties will be subject to effect,” by the crossing of the line under Lake Oahe.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline has been drilling under Lake Oahe for weeks, and said oil could start flowing through that section of the pipeline as early as next week.

The plaintiffs have not announced any change to their legal approach to the case.

Protests against the pipeline continue elsewhere in the United States.  This past weekend, a group gathered outside Trump Tower in New York City.  Some protesters carried signs advocating for Native American rights, while others expressed their anger over President Trump’s decision to allow the pipeline to go forward.

 

 

On March 10, a coalition of groups is planning the Native Nations March, a demonstration to be held in Washington, D.C.

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