Court denies tribe's request to halt pipeline construction

Court denies tribe's request to halt pipeline construction
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A federal court panel has lifted orders blocking construction on a portion of the embattled Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota. 

In a two-page ruling issued Sunday night, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for an injunction against construction on the project along a small stretch of land while its lawsuit over the pipeline moves forward. 

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The court also lifted an administrative injunction against work on the stretch of land around North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, an order issued when the tribe appealed its case to the court last month. 

Construction on federal land near Lake Oahe remains on hold, however; the federal government has not yet granted Dakota Access’s developers the easement necessary for constriction to move forward there. 

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has sued over the 1,170-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline project, saying it threatens sacred and environmental sites in the region and arguing the federal government didn’t do proper historical assessment work before issuing the permits necessary for the project. 

A lower court denied the tribe’s first injunction request in September; the tribe took its case to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week. Dakota Access lawyers said last Wednesday that the company would move forward with work if the court ruled against the injunction request.

The three-judge panel ruled Sunday that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe did not meet the conditions necessary for securing an injunction against the project. 

The judges acknowledged that federal law is designed to “mediate” disputes regarding historic preservation concerns like those at the heart of this conflict. 

“[The law’s] consultative process — designed to be inclusive and facilitate consensus — ensures competing interests are appropriately considered and adequately addressed,” the judges wrote. 

“A necessary easement still awaits government approval … where the Tribe alleges additional historic sites are at risk. We can only hope the spirit of [the law] may yet prevail.”