A federal judge denied an injunction Friday that would have frozen construction on a North Dakota oil pipeline opposed by a Native American tribe.
But despite the setback, the Standing Rock Sioux scored a partial victory as three federal departments jointly announced Friday that work would not be authorized on the sensitive land while they reconsider the tribe’s concerns.
The Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation sits near the Dakota Access pipeline’s route, brought a lawsuit contending the pipeline will disturb places of cultural importance and possibly contaminate potable water from the Missouri River. They claim the permits granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in July violate “multiple federal statutes,” including the National Historic Preservation Act.
The order from U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington was a setback for the tribe, which wanted construction stopped while their lawsuit against the Army played out in court.
“Aware of the indignities visited upon the Tribe over the last centuries, the Court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care,” Boasberg wrote. “Having done so, the Court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.”
But the court decision was almost counterbalanced by the surprise announcement from the Department of Justice, the Army and the Department of the Interior. The agencies said “construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.” They requested that Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline builder, delay all work within 20 miles of the area during this review.
“This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects,” the joint statement said.
“Our voices have been heard,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II in a statement. “The Obama administration has asked tribes to the table to make sure that we have meaningful consultation on infrastructure projects. Native peoples have suffered generations of broken promises and today the federal government said that national reform is needed to better ensure that tribes have a voice on infrastructure projects like this pipeline.”
The tribe also announced that it will appeal the judge’s ruling.
Energy Transfer Partners did not respond to HuffPost’s inquiries about today’s decisions.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) applauded the Army’s decision.
“The Justice Department, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of the Interior are right,” Sanders said in a statement. “It’s time to listen to our Native American brothers and sisters. We must stop the Dakota Access pipeline, once and for all.”
If it’s completed, the pipeline will carry 570,000 barrels of crude per day from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. Energy Transfer Partners, the company building it, say that the pipeline is more environmentally friendly than transporting the oil via trucks or trains.
Demonstrations against the project have grown in recent weeks as supporters, including those from other tribes, have joined the ranks of the Standing Rock Sioux’s encampment near the work site.
In recent weeks, there’s been conflict among the pipeline opponents, the company’s workers and local law enforcement.
Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein was charged this week with criminal trespass and criminal mischief after allegedly spray-painting a bulldozer with the words, “I approve this message.” Protesters contesting the bulldozing of a burial site claimed they were attacked by guard dogs and doused with pepper spray Saturday, Democracy Now reported. Since August, during other altercations dozens of other people have been arrested, including the tribe’s chairman, on charges like disorderly conduct and trespassing.
Cristian Farias contributed reporting.
This was a developing story and has been updated throughout.