Federal judges denied an injunction, allowing construction to continue on a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The three-judge panel for the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its decision Sunday after hearing oral arguments from lawyers representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and pipeline developers Energy Transfer Partners earlier this week. The tribe had asked the court to continue a work stoppage on the pipeline within 20 miles of Lake Oahe.
“Although the Tribe has not met the narrow and stringent standard governing this extraordinary form of relief, we recognize Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act was intended to mediate precisely the disparate perspectives involved in a case such as this one. Its consultative process—designed to be inclusive and facilitate consensus—ensures competing interests are appropriately considered and adequately addressed,” the court said in its order. “We can only hope the spirit of Section 106 may yet prevail.”
Though work may resume within the 20 mile radius, the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies continue to halt pipeline construction on corps land adjacent to Lake Oahe and requested that Energy Transfer Partners voluntarily halt construction on private lands.
“We call on Dakota Access to heed the government’s request to stand down around Lake Oahe,” said Jan Hasselman, lead attorney from Earthjustice, which is representing the tribe. “Continuing construction before the decision is made would be a tragedy given what we know about the importance of this area.”
Despite the setback, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says it will continue to fight against the pipeline. The tribe filed a lawsuit in July against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over its permitting of the pipeline to cross the Missouri River just north of the reservation.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is not backing down from this fight,” Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II, said in a statement. “We are guided by prayer, and we will continue to fight for our people. We will not rest until our lands, people, waters and sacred places are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline.”
The court has yet to decide on the tribe's appeal of a September U.S. District Court ruling that declined to shut down work on the entire pipeline.
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MAIN Coalition, an organization representing industry and economic development related to the pipeline, said in a statement that it was “pleased, but not surprised, by the Court's decision as this demonstrates that the Army Corps of Engineers did, indeed, meet the requirements required by the law.”
The ruling “confirms that the pipeline company … and the others involved this pipeline have done what they need to do to move the project forward,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. “I look forward to the workers getting back to work, doing the jobs they need to do Monday morning. Hopefully they can do it free from harassment and free from a threat of violence.”
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said the decision does not “deliver the finality or the safety they deserve.”
“That’s why I’ve been pressing the Army Corps of Engineers to make a decision determining the course of the pipeline while pushing for federal law enforcement resources our officers need to keep the peace on the ground,” the North Dakota Democrat said. “As a harsh North Dakota winter approaches and tensions continue to rise, protecting protesters, workers, and surrounding communities will be crucial -- and I’ll keep working to secure the resources and the certainty they need to stay safe.”
The pipeline stands to help support a larger issue -- supporting energy infrastructure -- said Sen. John Hoeven.
“Industry needs legal and regulatory certainty to make the kinds of enormous investments required to build it,” he said. “Pipelines, transmission lines, rail and roads are all necessary to safely transport both the renewable and traditional energy our country needs.”
Forum News Service contributed to this story.