UPDATE 2: Obama administration overrules District Court, shuts down Dakota pipeline

UPDATE 2: 9/10, 12:19 p.m. EST: Three Obama administration agencies announced late Friday afternoon that construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is suspended on all territory within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers

The policy announcement effectively overrules a decision made earlier Friday by a District Court judge in Washington that turned down a request by a local North Dakota group, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, to halt pipeline work on all private land.

A joint statement by the Justice Department, Interior Department and Corps of Engineers, read:  “Construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. We request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”

In court filings, lawyers for the Standing Rock tribe argued that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had violated federal laws in granting permits to Energy Transfer Partners and allowing construction of Dakota Access on its designated route, namely the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, which the U.S. Army will now review. 

 

UPDATE: 9/9, 4:17 p.m. EST: U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg denied a request by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to temporarily shutdown construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Friday, ruling that plaintiffs did not demonstrate “it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction the Court could issue.”

On Tuesday, Judge Boasberg issued an order to temporarily halt construction of the pipeline only on public land, but Friday’s ruling will allow the operator, Energy Transfer Partners, to continue on private property.  

Native tribes in North Dakota claim that sacred burial grounds have been destroyed the clearing and trenching process to build the pipeline that will span 1,200 miles from oil fields in northwest North Dakota to the main line in Illinois.

 

A U.S. District Court judge granted a restraining order against the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers on Tuesday to temporarily stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on public lands in North Dakota following a month’s worth of protests by environmentalists and local Native American tribes.

The ruling by Judge James Boasberg in Washington follows a weekend of protests at pipeline construction sites in North Dakota, some of which got physical with 30 people having been pepper sprayed by law enforcement and six being bitten by police dogs.

Reports surfaced that two more violent incidents occurred Tuesday and a third where Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeir claimed up to 200 protesters had occupied a private property construction area, some of whom were wielding knives and small axes.

Tuesday’s ruling by Judge Boasberg allows pipeline operator, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, to continue construction only on private land.  The Dakota Access Pipeline, scheduled to be completed by the end of December, connects the Bakken and Three Forks oil fields in North Dakota to a mainline in Illinois — an area covering approximately 1,200 miles.

“Today’s denial of a temporary restraining order . . . west of Lake Oahe puts my people’s sacred places at further risk of ruin and desecration,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault II, said in a statement Tuesday.

Documents filed in court Tuesday by Attorney Jan Hasselman, representing fellow plaintiff group Earthjustice, accused Energy Transfer construction workers of bulldozing sacred Indian burial sites on private land over the weekend and stated that tribal members want “an opportunity to rebury (their) relatives.”

The defendants denied the accusation, countering that they have “taken . . . every reasonable precaution” to preserve Native American landmarks while building the pipeline.

An overarching lawsuit brought by the Standing Rock tribe, yet to be decided, seeks to completely shutdown Energy Transfer’s pipeline project.  The path of Dakota Access comes within one mile of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

Plaintiffs claim whole construction violates federal laws, like the National Historic Preservation Act and could put local sources of water at risk of contamination.

Conversely, court documents filed Monday by Energy Transfer attorneys accuse tribal leaders of both Standing Rock and the Cheyenne River Sioux peoples of instigating “illegal conduct” by protesters.  Specifically, the pipeline company cites property damage, trespassing and “horrible threats of physical violence” at construction sites.

On Thursday, Governor Jack Dalrymple announced that he has requested the North Dakota National Guard to assist local law enforcement in “their public safety efforts,” at protest sites in Morton County, south of Mandan, N.D.

 

[AP via Los Angeles Times] [Indianz.com] [CNN] [Forum News Service] [The Atlantic]