U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected an attempt by tribes opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline to block its construction while they sue over decisions by the Army to allow the pipeline to proceed. The tribes had argued that having oil in proximity to their water supply interferes with their religious beliefs. Judge Boasberg said a later injunction to prevent oil from flowing through the pipeline was still possible but he would not block the pipeline itself while the lawsuits are pending. From the Associated Press:
The tribes say the pipeline would endanger their cultural sites and water supply. They added a religious freedom component to their case last week by arguing that clean water is necessary to practice the Sioux religion.
“The mere presence of the oil in the pipeline renders the water spiritually impure,” said Nicole Ducheneaux, lawyer for the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe.But Boasberg said any immediate harm to the tribe “comes from when the spigots are turned on and the oil flows through the pipeline.”
The next hearing in the case is set to take place on Feb. 27. The developer of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, had initially estimated the completion of the work would take 2-3 months. However, a lawyer for the company said the pipeline could be complete in as little as 30 days. The final easement allowing drilling to resume was granted last week.
Meanwhile, about 300 protesters at a camp near the drilling site have refused to leave. However, the Army Corps of Engineers announced earlier this month that the land where the camp is located would be closed as of February 22:
The Corps issued notices today informing protestors of the closure of Corps-managed federal property adjacent to the Cannonball River. Safety is the number one priority for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and therefore the Corps will close federal property in the floodplain located at the mouth of the Cannonball River on February 22, 2017, to prevent injuries and significant environmental damage in the likely event of flooding in this area…
On the approximately 50 acres where protest camps are located, grass has been removed or destroyed by the unauthorized placement of structures, vehicles, personal property, and fires. Soil erosion from a lack of vegetation cover will be exacerbated if flooding does occur, and could result in contaminated sediment runoff into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe.
Of course the protesters have been told to leave before. Closing the land won’t mean anything unless there is someone sent to enforce this and physically remove the protesters. That was never going to happen under the Obama administration but now things have changed. Next week should be the final showdown at the protest camp, while the final showdown in court could come a week later.