Judge de­clines to halt Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - By Blake Ni­chol­son

A fed­eral judge de­clined Tues­day to tem­po­rar­ily stop con­struc­tion of the fi­nal sec­tion of the dis­puted Dakota Ac­cess oil pipe­line, clear­ing the way for oil to flow as soon as next week.

The Stand­ing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes pledged to con­tinue their le­gal fight against the project, even af­ter the pipe­line be­gins op­er­at­ing.

The tribes had asked U.S. Dis­trict Judge James Boas­berg in Wash­ing­ton to di­rect the Army Corps of En­gi­neers to with­draw per­mis­sion for Texas-based de­vel­oper En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners to lay pipe un­der Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

The stretch un­der the Mis­souri River reser­voir in south­ern North Dakota is the last piece of con­struc­tion for the $3.8 bil­lion pipe­line to move North Dakota oil to Illi­nois.

The tribes ar­gued that a pipe­line un­der the lake vi­o­lates their right to prac- tice their religion, which re­lies on clean wa­ter, and they wanted the work sus­pended un­til the claim could be re­solved.

When they filed their law­suit last sum­mer, the tribes ar­gued that the pipe­line threat­ens Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­tural sites and their wa­ter sup­ply. Their religion ar­gu­ment was new, how­ever, and dis­puted by both the Corps and the com­pany.

Boas­berg in his rul­ing Tues­day said the tribes didn’t raise the religion ar­gu­ment in a timely fash­ion. He also ques­tioned its merit.

“Al­though the tribe’s mem- bers may feel un­able to use the wa­ter from Lake Oahe in their reli­gious cer­e­monies

once the pipe­line is oper- ational, there is no spe­cific ban on their reli­gious exer-

cise,” he said. The judge’s de­ci­sion came as Amer­i­can In­di­ans from across the coun­try gath­ered in Wash­ing­ton to protest Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s poli­cies en­cour­ag­ing oil pipe- lines. Na­tive Amer­i­cans are plan­ning four days of ac­tivi- ties in­clud­ing lob­by­ing law- mak­ers and cul­mi­nat­ing in a march on the White House. Tribal mem­bers and sup­port­ers plan to camp each day on the Na­tional Mall, with teepees, a cer­e­mo­nial fire, cul­tural work­shops and speak­ers.

“Trump and his friends at Big Oil have not won,” Stand­ing Rock Sioux Chair­man Dave Ar­cham­bault said in re­sponse to Boas­berg’s rul­ing, adding that “the big­ger le­gal bat­tle is ahead — we stand strong.”

Stand­ing Rock at­tor­ney Jan Has­sel­man and Cheyenne River at­tor­ney Nicole Duch­e­neaux said they hadn’t de­cided whether to ap­peal Boas­berg’s rul­ing. In the mean­time, they said, they’ll con­tinue to ar­gue for more en­vi­ron­men­tal study and for the gov­ern­ment to rec­og­nize the tribe’s treaty rights to clean wa­ter.

They don’t expect a court hear­ing un­til at least April — long af­ter pipe­line op­er­a­tions are ex­pected to be­gin — but Boas­berg “can or­der the pipe­line turned back off, and that’s what we’ll be ask­ing for,” Has­sel­man said.

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