Standing Rock Sioux Tribe confirms lack of easement for pipeline

Materials used for construction on the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. Photo by Camp of the Sacred Stones

Federal approval hasn't been granted for a crucial portion of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline amid fears that work on the controversial project might resume in North Dakota.

The Camp of the Sacred Stones [Facebook | Twitter | GoFundMe] was on edge on Monday night after word spread about the granting of an easement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe addressed the concerns on Tuesday afternoon.

"The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has confirmed that the easement for the Dakota Pipeline Project has NOT been issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers as of August 30, 2016," a statement on Facebook read.

Still, the tribe, whose leaders established the camp in April to resist the pipeline, is calling on Indian Country to take action. A decision by the Army Corps on the easement -- which would allow the Dakota Access partnership to begin work at Lake Oahe -- opens a 14-day window of notification to Congress.

"This is another chapter in the long history of the federal government granting the construction of potentially hazardous projects near or through tribal lands, waters, and cultural places without including the tribe," the tribe said on Tuesday.

The lack of an easement emerged as a significant issue last week when the tribe asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to stop construction on the pipeline. An attorney for the partnership appeared to be surprised when the Army Corps said final approval had yet to be granted.

Since the easement remains in limbo, Judge James E. Boasberg said he didn't feel rushed to rule on the tribe's request for a preliminary injunction. He promised a decision by the end of next week even as Dakota Access pushed for a speedier answer.

"It's really urgent for us to get a decision here," William J. Leone, an attorney for the pipeline partnership, told the judge at the August 24 hearing.

According to Leone, Dakota Access hopes to start transporting oil by January 1, 2017. The 1,172-mile pipeline is projected to carry about 470,000 barrels a day but it has the capacity to carry even more along the route, which starts in Montana before crossing into North Dakota.

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The path comes within a half-mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation just north of Cannon Ball. The close proximity has the tribe and its citizens worried about oil spilling into the Missouri River, which has long played a role in the social and economic fabric of the community.

"When this pipeline breaks, it will only take five minutes for oil to get into our water intake system," said Bobbi Jean Three Legs, a young tribal member who organized the ReZpect Our Water [Facebook | Instagram | Twitter] relay run from North Dakota to the White House, a 2,000-mile that ended earlier this month.

As the fight continues, the Camp of the Sacred Stones on Monday held a demonstration outside the offices of a law firm whose attorneys are representing the Dakota Access partnership. The firm is handling a different lawsuit that resulted in a temporary restraining order against Chairman Dave Archambault II and other leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The restraining order prevents Archambault, his colleagues and other individuals from interfering with construction on the pipeline after they were arrested on August 12 as part of a peaceful demonstration at the site. A hearing is scheduled to take place 2:30pm on Thursday, September 8, in Courtroom 1 of the federal courthouse in Bismarck.

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