Judge denies tribes’ request to block final link in Dakota pipeline

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By Timothy Gardner | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON A U.S. federal judge denied a request
by Native American tribes seeking a halt to construction of the
final link in the Dakota Access Pipeline on Monday, the
controversial project that has sparked months of protests from
tribal activists seeking to halt the 1,170-mile line.

Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in
Washington, D.C., at a hearing, rejected the request from the
Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, who had
argued that the project will prevent them from practicing
religious ceremonies at a lake they say is surrounded by sacred
ground.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week granted a final
easement to Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company
building the $3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), after
President Donald Trump issued an order to advance the pipeline
days after he took office in January.

Lawyers for the Cheyenne River Sioux and the Standing Rock
Sioux wanted Judge Boasberg to block construction with a
temporary restraining order.

“We are contending that the waters of Lake Oahe are sacred
to Cheyenne River and all of its members, and that the very
presence of a pipeline, not only construction but possible oil
flow through that pipeline, would obstruct the free exercise of
our religious practices,” Matthew Vogel, a legislative associate
for the Cheyenne River Sioux, told reporters in a conference
call ahead of the hearing.

The company only needs to build a final 1,100-foot (335
meter) connection in North Dakota under Lake Oahe, part of the
Missouri River system, to complete the pipeline.

The line is set to run from oilfields in the Northern Plains
of North Dakota to the Midwest, and then to refineries along the
Gulf of Mexico, could be operating by early May.

Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Tribe, said
in the call that the pipeline would also cause economic harm to
Native Americans.

The tribes could be facing a difficult task in convincing
Boasberg to grant the restraining order. Last September, he
rejected a broad request by Native Americans to block the
project. That ruling was superseded by the Obama Administration,
which delayed the line, seeking more environmental review.

Thousands of tribe members and environmental activists have
protested the pipeline setting up camps last year on Army Corps
land in the North Dakota plains. In December, the Obama
Administration denied ETP’s last needed permit, but with Trump’s
stated support of the pipeline, that victory was short-lived for
the Standing Rock Sioux.

The Army Corps has said it will close remaining camps on
federal lands along the Cannonball River in North Dakota after
Feb. 22.

Cleanup efforts continued in the main protest camp located
on federal land over the weekend. Only a few hundred protesters
remain, and crews have been removing tipis and yurts. The
Standing Rock tribe has been asking protesters to leave.

(additional reporting by Terray Sylvester in Cannon Ball, North
Dakota)



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