A federal court said it will make its decision next month on whether to temporarily halt construction of a oil pipeline that has sparked protests led by Native American tribes affected by its construction.
Judge James E. Boasberg said he’ll decide by September 9th on the injunction request the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed against the building of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which crosses through four states. The tribe is challenging the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant permits for Texas-based energy company Energy Transfer Partners to build the pipeline that will run 1,168 miles through Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Native Americans say the pipeline is an intrusion on their sacred grounds and over time and deterioration the pipeline will contaminate drinking water resources. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe also say they weren’t consulted on the building of the pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers say they did reach out to the tribe but they declined to be part of the process because it would legitimize a process they don’t believe in. Energy Transfer Partners say their project is safe and will boost local economies in the region and help wean the country’s dependency on foreign oil. In the meantime, they’ve agreed to stop construction in the North Dakota area until the court rules next month.
The announcement comes a month after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the Corps over building permits on an area less than a mile from the reservation and through the Missouri River as well as other waterways.
Since April, tribe members have protested at one of the construction sites where the Cannonball and Missouri rivers meet. In the beginning, the gatherings were small where members prayed but as the construction of the pipeline ramped up, so did the protests, with hundreds and hundreds of more people gathering and gaining the attention of national media and celebrities like Shailene Woodley and Susan Sarandon. Various tribes from across the United States have joined and supported the protests. Within the last two weeks, nearly 30 protestors have been arrested.
Early last week, Dakota Access Pipeline developers sued Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II and other protestors saying they interfered with the construction of their project and put their workers and law enforcement’s safety at risk. The company says the protestors allegedly threw rocks and bottles at their workers and reports of gunshots were heard. However, leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe say their protests have always been peaceful.
In response to these peaceful protests, the state’s government is doing all it can to stop them. Last week, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued a state of an emergency for southwest and south-central North Dakota in response to the protests in order to receive more funding for state agencies. And earlier this week North Dakota’s homeland security director Greg Wilz ordered the removal of state-owned air-conditioned trailers and water tanks at the protest campsite, in response to alleged unlawful activity. The tribe had requested and received public health services like the water tanks to ensure protestors safety while being out in the summer heat.
According to officials, the pipeline is about 48 percent complete and the company hopes to begin transporting oil by early next year. Construction is ongoing everywhere else along the project’s path but a small group of Iowa landowners managed to temporarily stop construction as well.