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Tribes head back to court in hopes of halting Dakota Access Pipeline





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Construction has resumed on the Dakota Access Pipeline as tribes prepare for a critical court hearing in the nation's capital.

Judge James E. Boasberg already scheduled a hearing for Monday in anticipation of a decision from the new Trump administration. But now that an easement has been issued for the final portion of the pipeline, he's agreed to take up a request by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to halt to all construction activities.

The hearing in Washington, D.C., marks the third time Boasberg has been asked to stop work in North Dakota. The first two did not result in success -- both times, he refused to take action on requests made by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in late August and in early September.

And while a federal appeals court imposed a temporary halt to work near Standing Rock for about one month, the wealthy backers of the pipeline were still able to complete work elsewhere. As a result, the 1,172-mile project is all but finished except for the portion on federally-managed land at Lake Oahe along the Missouri River.

It's now up to Boasberg to determine whether to stop that work. In court papers, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe argues that installation and operation of the pipeline threatens the religious practices of its citizens.

"The Lakota believe that the very existence of the Black Snake under their sacred waters in Lake Oahe will unbalance and desecrate the water and render it impossible for the Lakota to use that water in their Inipi ceremony," a motion filed on Thursday stated, in reference to the Inipi, or sweat lodge, ceremony.

Marcella Gilbert, a tribal citizen, said other ceremonies are at risk if the pipeline goes under the Missouri. Clean water, for example, is required for a coming of age rite known as the isnati.

"Disturbing and threatening the sacred water used in these ceremonies also disturbs and threatens our spiritual path in life," Gilbert said in a sworn declaration. "Clean, undisturbed water is needed when purifying our bodies in inipi, when bathing our daughters in isnati, and when nourishing our bodies before and after each ceremony."

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has not submitted new court papers as of Friday afternoon. But its leaders intend to challenge the easement issued to Dakota Access, as well as the Trump administration's decision to cancel an environmental review of the work at Lake Oahe.

“We have asked for a fair, balanced and lawful environmental impact statement directly to President Trump and through the courts,” Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a press release from Washington, D.C, where he had traveled in hopes of lobbying the White House on the pipeline.

“The Governor, North Dakota congressional delegation and the entire world are keenly aware of the immense opposition to this project. We encourage our allies to exercise their First Amendment rights to remind President Trump where we stand on DAPL," Archambault added "Rise with Standing Rock.”

With the easement in hand, Dakota Access continues to assert the safety of its operation. The 30-inch pipe is going a minimum of 95 feet underneath the Missouri, far deeper than eight other pipelines that are already below the river, according to the firm.

The firm is also conducting a series of tests to ensure the pipe will not rupture, attorney David Debold said during a hearing this past Monday. Crude oil could be flowing along the entire route in less than 90 days, he added.

Monday's hearing takes place at 2pm Eastern in Courtroom 19 of the federal courthouse in D.C.

Key Dates in #NoDAPL Movement:
April 1, 2016 - Sacred Stone Camp established in North Dakota
July 25 - Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sues U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in federal court to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline
August 6 - Native youth complete 2,000-mile run to the White House
August 19 - Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe allowed to intervene in lawsuit
August 24 - Hundreds flock to federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., as Standing Rock Sioux Tribe seeks preliminary injunction
September 2 - Standing Rock Sioux Tribe discloses significant cultural finds in pipeline corridor. A day later, Dakota Access security guards unleash attack dogs and employ mace against #NoDAPL activists.
September 5 - Federal judge orders hearing after Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reports destruction of sacred sites.
September 9 - Judge declines to grant preliminary injunction requested on August 24 as the Obama administration announces a hold on easement for the final portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline
September 12 - Judge again declines to halt construction to protect sacred sites
September 16 - Federal appeals court halts construction on both sides of Lake Oahe on a temporary basis
September 20 - Chairman Dave Archambault II addresses the United Nations Human Rights Council
October 5 - Appeals court hears arguments on preliminary injunction
October 9 - Appeals court lifts injunction, allowing construction to resume
October 22 - Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump promises to lift the Obama administration's "roadblocks" to large infrastructure projects like Dakota Access
October 26 - Native youth travel to New York to ask then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to take a stand on Dakota Access. Her campaign staff refuses to meet with the delegation
October 27 - Authorities in North Dakota engage in the first in a series of violent crackdowns against #NoDAPL activists
November 1 - Then-president Barack Obama hints of further delays in the easement for Dakota Access in an interview with NowThis

Dakota Access Pipeline Approval Documents:
Department of Justice Notice | Department of the Army Approval Memorandum | Notice of Termination of EIS for Dakota Access Pipeline | Easement Letter to Congressional Leadership

White House Documents:
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (January 24, 2017)
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline (January 24, 2017)
Executive Order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects (January 24, 2017)
Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of American Pipelines (January 24, 2017)
Presidential Memorandum Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing (January 24, 2017)
Press Release: President Trump Takes Action to Expedite Priority Energy and Infrastructure Projects (January 24, 2017)

Federal Register Notice:
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in Connection With Dakota Access, LLC's Request for an Easement To Cross Lake Oahe, North Dakota (January 18, 2017)

Related Stories:
Dakota Access pushes to finish pipeline with Army Corps easement (2/9)
Tribes promise fight to keep Dakota Access Pipeline out of homeland (2/8)
Key Dakota Access document from Army Corps wasn't filed in court (2/8)
Trump administration formally approves easement for Dakota Access (2/7)