United States judge rejects tribes' latest effort to stop Dakota Access pipeline progress

Judge to hear arguments on Dakota Access pipeline work

How the Army Corps of Engineers wound up in the middle of the Dakota pipeline fight

A United States judge has rejected a request from two Native American tribes to halt construction on the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed a motion last week seeking the restraining order.

Boasberg said he wanted to rule on that request before oil was actually flowing through the pipeline.

Although the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, along with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, have been challenging the pipeline since previous year, arguments on Monday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia centered on a new argument that the Cheyenne River tribe raised in its latest court papers: that the pipeline would burden their exercise of religion, in violation of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Army Corps of Engineers in December denied Energy Transfer Partners the easement it needed to complete the final stretch of the $3.8-billion project, but President Donald Trump ordered the Army secretary to move forward the process shortly after he took office.

As drilling advances under the river, the two tribes on Monday, arguing the pipeline violates their religious freedom and endangers their water supply and cultural sites, requested a temporary restraining order against further construction. The Standing Rock tribe has been asking protesters to leave.

Both tribes also warned the pipeline could break and pollute the river, which is the source of drinking water for the tribe and millions of people downstream. Some have been here since April, their numbers fluctuating between hundreds and thousands, in an unprecedented show of joint resistance to the almost 1,200 mile-long Dakota Access oil pipeline. The easement granted by the Army Corps allows the developer to finish building the 1,172-mile pipeline carrying crude oil from North Dakota to IL. Amid the renewed effort to complete the project, the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribe vowed to continue their legal battle through the courts.

It has been the subject of protests from Native Americans and environmental activists around the country. After all, the Washington D.C. judge was the same man who denied the tribes' request to halt the pipeline project last September. That's the last big section that would need to be completed before the pipeline could carry North Dakota oil to IL.

Work is underway. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg is to hear arguments this afternoon on whether it should be stopped while the lawsuit plays out.

Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline have yet to publicly comment on Monday's decision, or if protesters will continue attempts to remain at their camps if the Army attempts to remove them later this month.

The Army plans to close the protest camp on February 22.

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