A federal judge denied a Native American tribe's request to temporarily block construction of the four-state, Dakota Access oil pipeline that has sparked heated protests. But the U.S. Justice Department responded to the ruling by announcing steps to protect for now a lake along the construction route.
Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said in his opinion that there is not enough evidence that allowing the pipeline to proceed would harm the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that sued to stop the pipeline's construction.
Boasberg's ruling showed sympathy for the tribe's history, but disagreed with the lawsuit's contention that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erred in its granting permits for the pipeline.
"Aware of the indignities visited upon the Tribe over the last centuries, the Court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care," Boasberg wrote. "Having done so, the Court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here."
The U.S. Departments of Justice, the Interior and the Army weighed in immediately after the ruling's release with an announcement that the Corps of Engineers will at least temporarily halt authorization for construction of the pipeline around Lake Oahe, while it relooks at its previous decisions regarding this large reservoir. The government requested that the Texas-based Dakota Access pipeline company voluntarily pause construction within 20 miles of Lake Oahe.
The government also announced that this case highlighted the need to consider "nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects."
The planned 1,172-mile Dakota Access pipeline will run from North Dakota and South Dakota into Iowa and Illinois.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe argues in its lawsuit that the Corps of Engineers failed to adequately consult it before granting permits that allowed construction of the pipeline that began earlier this summer about a half mile north of the tribe's reservation in North Dakota.
The lawsuit also claims that the pipeline could endanger drinking water supplies and damage culturally sensitive sites on the group's ancestral lands.
The pipeline company and the Corps argue in court documents that they followed a standard review process.
Conflict over the pipeline escalated last weekend when private security workers for Texas-based Dakota Access, the pipeline company, and protesters against the project clashed at the North Dakota construction site.
Prior to the announcement of the ruling, the Standing Rock Tribe Chairman David Archambault II said that no matter the outcome, opponents of the pipeline should remain peaceful.
"We call upon all water protectors to greet any decision with peace and order. Even if the outcome of the court’s ruling is not in our favor, we will continue to explore every lawful option and fight against the construction of the pipeline," Archambault said.
"Any act of violence hurts our cause and is not welcome here," he said.
In anticipation of possible protests following the ruling, the North Dakota governor had called upon the state's National Guard to help law enforcement, the state National Guard said in a statement today.
"Personnel from the North Dakota National Guard have been called upon by the governor to support law enforcement and augment public safety efforts, in light of recent activity with the Dakota Access Pipeline protest," the statement said. "The Guard members will serve in administrative capacities and assist in providing security at traffic information points. The Guardsmen will not be going to the actual protest site."
Dakota Access says on its website that it expects the pipeline to transport about 470,000 barrels of crude oil every day from production areas in North Dakota’s Bakken and Three Forks production areas through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois, while also creating thousands of construction jobs and generating millions in tax revenue for those four states.
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