Environment | Law | National | Politics

Judge refuses to halt Dakota Access as pipeline nears completion






Teepees are seen near the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., as part of Native Nations Rise, an event organized by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

The battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline suffered another blow as a federal judge refused to halt construction on the controversial project.

In a 38-page decision issued on Tuesday, Judge James E. Boasberg said the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe waited too long to seek an injunction based on religious grounds. So stopping the pipeline, which is all but complete except for a portion that crosses the Missouri River in North Dakota, wouldn't be fair to its wealthy backers or to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the ruling stated.

"Only once Dakota Access had built up to the water’s edge and the Corps had granted the easement to proceed did Cheyenne River inform defendants that the pipeline was the realization of a long-held prophecy about a Black Snake and that the mere presence of oil in the pipeline under the lakebed would interfere with the tribe’s members’ ability to engage in important religious practices," Boasberg wrote in denying the injunction.

Boasberg also noted that the project is days away from completion. In a status report filed on Monday, Dakota Access said oil could be placed in the pipeline as soon as next week.

"Suspending the effect of the easement now would undercut the purpose behind the consultation obligations built into the Corps’ permitting processes, which aim to surface tribal concerns in a timely manner," Boasberg said as he questioned why the tribe didn't bring up religious concerns at various stages in the review process.

"Such injunctive relief would also, by delaying the flow of oil, impose significant costs on a private third party, Dakota Access," the judge added.


Teepees are seen on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as part of Native Nations Rise, an event organized by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Cheyenne River leaders have a right to appeal but the timing leaves them with few options. But Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said the ruling wasn't a setback because both tribes are still pursuing other ways to stop the pipeline, which was approved barely three weeks after President Donald Trump took office.

“Trump and his friends at Big Oil have not won. Today’s ruling does not hurt the strength of our legal arguments challenging the illegal easement approved by the Trump administration,” Archambault said in a press release on Tuesday. “While this preliminary ruling is disappointing, it’s not surprising. It is very difficult to get an injunction in a case like this. The bigger legal battle is ahead – we stand strong.”

Both tribes are seeking to set aside the easement that the Army Corps granted to Dakota Access, enabling construction at a site less than a half-mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The decision, which was announced on February 7, was made without consulting either tribe.

Trump himself paved the way for the pipeline by issuing a pro-development memorandum only four days after being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. He also owned stock in Dakota Access and one of the firm's business partners though his transition team said he divested after winning the Republican nomination last summer.

“The Trump administration’s issuance of the easement violates both of these legal requirements. If the pipeline goes into operation before then, it should not affect the legal proceeding,” said Jan Hasselman, an attorney from the non-profit Earthjustice who is representing Standing Rock. “If the judge rules that the permits are illegal, he can shut the pipeline operation down.”

In addition to the legal battle, Standing Rock leaders are in Washington, D.C., this week for Native Nations Rise. The event opened on Tuesday with symbolic camp near the Washington Monument, where indigenous activists like Dallas Goldtooth and Judith LeBlanc huddled on the grounds of the National Mall.

Amid teepees labeled with "Mni Wiconi" and "Water Is Life," volunteers were preparing to build a sacred fire that will burn throughout four days of blessings, speeches and presentations aimed at drawing attention to the struggles facing Standing Rock and other indigenous communities. The event culminates with a march on Friday from Army Corps headquarters to the White House.

Related Stories:
Dakota Access revises timeline after making 'very good progress' (3/6)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leads Native Nations Rise march in DC (3/6)
Award-winning group raises funds for Water Protector legal fund (3/6)
Ruling expected this week on injunction against Dakota Access (3/6)
Dakota Access trying to keep documents from tribes and public (3/2)
Senate confirms Dakota Access ally to lead Energy Department (3/2)
Bill to approve non-Indian casinos in North Dakota called 'racist' (3/2)
North Dakota gains financially with completion of Dakota Access (3/2)
Native Sun News Today: Evictions end historic #NoDAPL campsite (3/1)
Winona LaDuke: Water protectors are still standing strong all over (3/1)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe waiting on Dakota Access injunction (2/28)
Peter d'Errico: Yankton Sioux Tribe battles Dakota Access in court (2/28)
Sioux Nation citizens seek to join Dakota Access Pipeline lawsuit (2/27)
Dakota Access files another status update on construction work (2/27)
Mark Trahant: The story of Standing Rock won't be going away (2/27)
Jenni Monet: Tribes continue fight as #NoDAPL camps evicted (2/27)
Albert Bender: The war against Dakota Access can still be won (2/27)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe blasts Trump claim of 'constant contact' (2/24)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe calls out Trump 'lies' on Dakota Access (2/24)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe slams Trump for lack of consultation (2/23)
Indian Country joins legal push to block Dakota Access Pipeline (2/22)
Dakota Access offers up March 6 as earliest date for completion (2/22)
Trump administration opposes injunction against Dakota Access (2/22)
Trump team puts hold on pro-tribal Dakota Access legal opinion (2/22)
Native Sun News Today: #NoDAPL campsites see their final days (2/22)
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Dakota Access is everything wrong with US (2/22)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe hopes to see return of casino business (2/21)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Sen. Hoeven raises red flags in Indian Country (2/20)
Bureau of Indian Affairs issues 'trespass' notice to #NoDAPL camp (2/17)
Hearing on injunction against Dakota Access moved to February 28 (2/17)
Army Department formally cancels Dakota Access Pipeline review (2/16)
Native Sun News Today: Dakota Access firms see spills, explosions (2/16)
James Giago Davies: Tribes face bigger threat than Dakota Access (2/16)
Monte Mills: Tribes turn to courts to battle Dakota Access Pipeline (2/16)
Standing Rock leader vows to 'forgive' despite White House slight (2/15)
Freedom Socialist: Voices from water protectors at Standing Rock (2/15)
New leader of key House panel defends handling of Dakota Access (2/14)
Dakota Access ready to start transporting oil sooner than expected (2/13)
More tribes join effort to halt completion of Dakota Access Pipeline (2/13)
Army Corps gave go ahead to Dakota Access Pipeline in key memo (2/13)
Mark Trahant: Battle over Dakota Access Pipeline is far from over (2/13)
Tribes head back to court in hopes of halting Dakota Access Pipeline (2/10)
Dakota Access pushes to finish pipeline with Army Corps easement (2/9)
Mark Charles: The real reason Trump hasn't heard about #NoDAPL (2/9)
James Giago Davies: Dakota Access battle has got us divided again (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)
J. Gabriel Ware & James Trimarco: City breaks with bank over DAPL (2/8)
Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn: In defense of Native journalist Jenni Monet (2/8)
Chelsey Luger: Media is still trying to divide and conquer our people (2/8)
Peter d'Errico: Even Donald Trump can't trample over tribal treaties (2/8)
Andrea Carmen/Roberto Borrero: Trump's slash and burn on treaties (2/8)
Trump administration formally approves easement for Dakota Access (2/7)
Mark Trahant: Native journalist charged by North Dakota authorities (2/7)
Albert Bender: Donald Trump goes blitzkrieg on #NoDAPL movement (2/7)
Dakota Access offers timeline as Trump finalizes decision on pipeline (2/6)
Ladonna Bravebull Allard: Indigenous nations must stand our ground (2/6)
Jenni Monet: I got arrested for reporting on the #NoDAPL movement (2/6)
Ray Cook: Now it is time for all of us to stand down at Standing Rock (2/6)
Frances Madeson: More tribes joining with #DefundDAPL movement (2/3)
Mark Trahant: Donald Trump's 'logic' on the Dakota Access Pipeline (2/1)
Winona LaDuke: Tribes emboldened by resistance at Standing Rock (2/1)
Native Sun News Today: Tribes push back on Trump's pipeline orders (2/1)