BISMARCK – Construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, which would carry Bakken Shale crude oil, was given the go-ahead by a judge to proceed last Friday, but the Obama administration immediately stepped in and called a halt.
In a 58-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “has likely complied” with the National Historic Preservation Act to assess the impact that the $3.8 billion pipeline’s construction could have on cultural sites in North Dakota, which have been protested by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
The tribe, Boasberg ruled, “has not shown it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction the court could issue. The motion will thus be denied.”
Last Tuesday he had rejected the tribe’s request for a temporary injunction, but sponsor Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP) had voluntarily suspended construction activity because of protests . The case in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is Standing Rock Sioux tribe, et al., v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., No. 16-1534.
The Standing Rock Sioux in July had filed a lawsuit requesting a permanent injunction to prevent construction from moving forward, accusing the Corps of failing to consider whether the crude oil pipeline posed a threat to areas considered sacred by the tribe.
The tribe’s legal counsel said it will appeal, and Boasberg on Friday scheduled a preliminary hearing for next week.
Despite reports to the contrary from weary protesters, the head of the National Guard said troops would not patrol the protest encampment north of Cannon Ball, ND, near the Sioux reservation and the border between North and South Dakota. Representatives from various tribes around the nation and environmental activists have been joining the encampment over the past two weeks as legal filings have been flying between the Sioux tribe and ETP’s Dakota Access Pipeline LLC unit.
“The Guard is not heading south,” said Maj. Gen. Alan Dohrmann. “Its role here is to promote, like everyone else, public safety and to help out with law enforcement so we can free up officers with patrol cars to go down there and have a visible presence.”
Up to 12 Guardsmen are to relieve law enforcement officers at a traffic control checkpoint on Highway 1806 about six miles south of Mandan that has been in place since mid-August, Dohrmann said. The checkpoint would be converted to a traffic information point, and the other 100 members of the Guard will be on standby alert.
Morton County and North Dakota Highway Patrol officials said hundreds of protesters were in and around the encampment about 35 miles south of Mandan, and 37 people had been arrested on charges including preventing arrest, disorderly conduct and criminal trespass at pipeline construction sites along Highway 1806.
Union workers and protesters have repeatedly squared off, each accusing the other side of infringing on its rights to protest or to work peacefully in building the pipeline. Stevens argued that none of the Sioux tribe’s concerns are legitimate and said their issues were addressed earlier in the permitting process.
“The pipeline is sited along a long-utilized energy corridor that has undergone significant construction over the past few decades and of which state archeologists issued a ‘no significant sites affected’ determination several months ago,” Stevens said. “The pipeline will not cross into the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation and, once operational, will be among the safest, most technologically advanced pipelines ever constructed.”