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14 February 2017, 12:40 | Jamie Ballard
How the Army Corps of Engineers wound up in the middle of the Dakota pipeline fight
A United States judge has rejected a request from two Native American tribes to halt construction on the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline.
A federal judge in Washington, DC, on Monday denied a request to immediately stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The tribe, along with the Standing Rock Sioux, has opposed Energy Transfer Partners' plan to route the pipeline beneath Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri River that provides drinking water and is held sacred by the Sioux.
The developer, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) has completed most of the pipeline, and began work on the final section after the army gave it permission to proceed on Wednesday. They added a religious freedom component to their case last week by arguing that clean water is necessary to practice the Sioux religion.
Some 300 to 400 people continue to occupy the main anti-Dakota Access protest camp near the Standing Rock reservation on the Cannonball River floodplain.
The goal of Monday's hearing was to convince Judge Boasberg to block the continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline with a temporary restraining order on the religious grounds cited above.
A lawyer for Dakota Access LLC, the company building the pipeline, offered a new, faster possible timeline for construction to finish.
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According to a lawyer for the tribe, the presence of oil would desecrate the waters of Lake Oahe, which the tribe uses in religious ceremonies. President Trump reversed course and signed an executive order last month calling for an expedited review of the project.
Other legal challenges to the pipeline are proceeding before Boasberg.
Before heading to court Monday, it was widely anticipated that the legal team representing the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes would have a tough time proving their case to Judge Boasberg and getting the restraining order they so desperately sought. The Army Corps of Engineers on February 8 granted the approvals needed for construction to continue, in the form of an easement to go through federal lands.
The company called the religion argument a "last-minute delay tactic".
A quick court hearing proved that those concerned about the ability to secure a restraining order in the Dakota Access Pipeline case were right to be anxious. The Cheyenne tribe has been party to an overarching lawsuit with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe brought in July against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after the agency approved a permit for the river crossing, without writing an actual easement.
The motion also cited USA obligations to federally recognized tribes.
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