Judge Denies Latest Bid to Block Dakota Pipeline

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Posted by Joseph Keefe

A U.S. federal judge denied a request by Native
American tribes seeking a halt to construction of the final link
in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Monday, the controversial
project that has sparked months of protests from tribal activists
seeking to halt the 1,170-mile line.

Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in Washington,
D.C., at a hearing, rejected the request from the Standing Rock
Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who had argued that the
project will prevent them from practicing religious ceremonies at
a lake they say is surrounded by sacred ground.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week granted a final
easement to Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company building the
$3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), after President
Donald Trump issued an order to advance the pipeline days after
he took office in January.

Lawyers for the Cheyenne River Sioux and the Standing Rock Sioux
wanted Judge Boasberg to block construction with a temporary
restraining order.

"We are contending that the waters of Lake Oahe are sacred to
Cheyenne River and all of its members, and that the very presence
of a pipeline, not only construction but possible oil flow
through that pipeline, would obstruct the free exercise of our
religious practices," Matthew Vogel, a legislative associate for
the Cheyenne River Sioux, told reporters in a conference call
ahead of the hearing.

The company only needs to build a final 1,100-foot (335 meter)
connection in North Dakota under Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri
River system, to complete the pipeline.

The line is set to run from oilfields in the Northern Plains of
North Dakota to the Midwest, and then to refineries along the
Gulf of Mexico, could be operating by early May.

Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Tribe, said in the
call that the pipeline would also cause economic harm to Native
Americans.

The tribes faced a difficult task in convincing Boasberg to grant
the restraining order. Last September, he rejected a broad
request by Native Americans to block the project. That ruling was
superseded by the Obama Administration, which delayed the line,
seeking more environmental review.

Thousands of tribe members and environmental activists have
protested the pipeline setting up camps last year on Army Corps
land in the North Dakota plains. In December, the Obama
Administration denied ETP's last needed permit, but with Trump's
stated support of the pipeline, that victory was short-lived for
the Standing Rock Sioux.

The Army Corps has said it will close remaining camps on federal
lands along the Cannonball River in North Dakota after Feb. 22.

Cleanup efforts continued in the main protest camp located on
federal land over the weekend. Only a few hundred protesters
remain, and crews have been removing tipis and yurts. The
Standing Rock tribe has been asking protesters to leave.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner

Feb 13, 2017

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