Judge rules pipeline construction can continue in legal blow to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
A federal judge ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request to stop a four-state oil pipeline under construction near their reservation, allowing construction on the pipeline to continue on Friday.
Judge James E. Boasberg’s written opinion rejected the tribe’s request for a preliminary injunction. Now, the oil company will be allowed to continue building the pipeline according to schedule, which is set to be finished before the end of the year.
Immediately following, the U.S. Department of Justice stepped in, issuing a joint statement with the Department of the Army.
The DOJ outlined the need for "serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects."
"... construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time... In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe," the report reads.
So will construction for the pipeline continue at this point? It's still unclear. The statement from the Department of Justice does not state that the company building the pipeline has agreed to these conditions.
In Federal Court this week, Judge James E. Boasberg did not issue a temporary restraining order 20 miles West of North Dakota Highway 1806, because he said this area was not in the Army Corps of Engineers' jurisdiction. It's unclear if this joint statement will actually have an impact on the company's plans to continue with construction as planned.
"This was an important ruling,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), “I think an appropriate ruling because what's really at stake is the authority of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.”
Cramer says the Army Corps of Engineers did follow proper protocol, pointing out that the route of the pipeline changed several time after other tribes raised concerns. He says the Standing Rock Sioux refused to meet with federal regulators initially.
"The fact that several other tribes did participate in consultation early on is an indication that the Corps did its job,” Cramer said. “Coming in late with a complaint puts you at a disadvantage. I think that's clear.”
The judge agreed saying the Army Corps of Engineers "gave the Tribe a reasonable and good-faith opportunity to identify sites of importance to it."
The Standing Roc Sioux argued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not do enough to consult with tribal members.
“Our tribe is going to appeal,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
We're going to continue to battle this fight as long as it takes to try and have his nation recognize the injustices that are being implemented on our nation.”
The decision comes amid clashes between protesters and security officers near the construction site. The Governor even called in the National Guard ahead of Friday’s decision in anticipation the conflict may escalate.
“If you disagree with the outcome, use the peaceful, established, legal forms to issue your protest,” Rep. Cramer (R-ND) said.