A federal district court judge has denied a temporary restraining order sought to stop drilling of the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River/Lake Oahe.
Judge James E. Boasberg denied the order following Monday afternoon’s hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., and required the pipeline company to provide updates Feb. 21 and every Monday thereafter on when oil will begin to flow through the river-crossing pipe.
The restraining order was sought by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on grounds that the pipeline would interfere with its indigenous freedom to practice religion in pure, clean water. The Cheyenne tribe has been party to an overarching lawsuit with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe brought in July against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after the agency approved a permit for the river crossing, without writing an actual easement. That larger lawsuit remains unsettled.
The corps issued an easement last week at the order of President Donald Trump, overturning the Obama administration’s 11th-hour decision to stop the pipeline and conduct an environmental review examining alternate routes. The company says, once the horizontal drill pipe is bored and connected, oil can start flowing, sometime before early summer.
The pipeline is just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where protesters have been gathered since summer, but Standing Rock did not join the request for the temporary restraining order. The two reservations share a boundary and both front along Lake Oahe.
The judge did not comment on his decision in court filings.
Chase Iron Eyes, member of the Standing Rock Sioux and law project attorney, said the decision was disappointing, not surprising.
“The tribes will continue to pursue legal remedies through the courts, seek an injunction against the pipeline and push for the full environmental impact statement to be completed,” said Iron Eyes, pointing out that the Sioux are proud to be the spear tip for the resistance. “Native nations have always provided the spiritual foundation for those who seek to push … toward a place that respects what the west calls natural resources, but what we term sacred relatives from our Mother Earth.”
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Some 300 to 400 people continue to occupy the main anti-Dakota Access protest camp near the Standing Rock reservation on the Cannonball River floodplain. Iron Eyes said he is urging them to move to higher ground for safety, but that individuals are making their own decisions whether to stand or move.
As many as four other protest camps are being established on Standing Rock by the Cheyenne River Sioux bands.
Meanwhile, a number of veterans are at the camps and still arriving, according to Anthony Diggs, spokesman for Veterans Stand, a group that has benefited from recent internet crowdfunding to the amount of $182,000 from 3,500 donors, according to the site.
Diggs, a U.S. Marine Corpsman from 2003 to 2007, said he and other veterans are in camp to help with the cleanup of the main Oceti Sakowin camp ahead of possible spring flooding and provide supplies, logistical support and communications, where needed.
Iron Eyes said the corps told him it will follow up its Feb. 22 deadline to vacate the Oceti Sakowin camp by coming in after that date to remove any remaining structures. Standing Rock crews and others are in their third week of clearing abandoned campsites and have made substantial progress working with the camp residents.
Diggs said hundreds of veterans from his and at least two other veterans’ group will be there if the corps comes in as promised.
“We will be non-violently demonstrating against the corps coming in and clearing out the Oceti camp. We’ve been called to serve by the Cheyenne River Sioux, and we are here in service to them,” he said.