A federal judge’s Tuesday ruling against petitioners seeking to halt the final section of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has virtually assured the pipeline will be completed and begin operation as early as next week.
Two tribes, the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River, sued to stop construction, claiming the area under Lake Oahe is sacred and would impede their right to exercise freedom of religion.
In denying a motion submitted by the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River tribes for a preliminary injunction against Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, said the tribes’ legal avenues were exhausted.
The tribes had submitted a late legal filing and cited a violation of freedom of religion, but Boasberg told the plaintiffs the alleged violation of religious rights was highly questionable and excessively late:
“Although the tribe’s members may feel unable to use the water from Lake Oahe in their religious ceremonies once the pipeline is operational, there is no specific ban on their religious exercise.”
Mentioning progress made by Energy Transfer, repeated modifications to the pipeline’s pathway and costs incurred in the $3.8 billion project, Boasberg wrote in his 38-page decision:
“Cheyenne River’s religious-exercise claim . . . involves a government action — granting an easement to Dakota Access to build and operate a pipeline — regarding the use of federal land — the land under Lake Oahe — that has an incidental, if serious, impact on a tribe’s ability to practice its religion because of spiritual desecration of a sacred site.”
“(Rerouting DAPL around the lake) would be more costly and complicated than it would have been months or years ago.”
The development of the pipeline triggered protests on the construction site and protracted legal battles. DAPL also inspired widespread protests, some of which grew violent. Over 750 protesters were eventually arrested.
In addition to ruling against halting the final phase of construction, Judge Boasberg also ruled against the pipeline from operating once the project is completed.
Oil is expected to begin flowing in the 1,172-mile line in approximately two weeks.
[AP] [RT America] [Photo courtesy The Leap via Common Dreams]