A federal judge has denied the request by water protecters of the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River tribes to halt construction on the controversial Dakota Access pipeline.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the motion for a preliminary injunction against the pipeline company on Tuesday. The judge stated that oil is expected to flow as early as next week:
“Since last summer, the question of whether Dakota Access should route its oil pipeline near the reservations of American Indian tribes has engendered substantial debate both on the ground in North and South Dakota and here in Washington.
“… At the start of 2017, that pipeline was nearly complete, save a stretch – awaiting an easement – that was designed to run under the bed of Lake Oahe, a federally regulated waterway that forms part of the Missouri River and straddles North and South Dakota.
“Upon assuming office, President Trump directed an expedited approval process, and on February 8, the Army Corps of Engineers issued the easement that permitted Dakota Access to drill under the lake. Fearing that the presence of oil in the pipeline under Lake Oahe will cause irreparable harm to its members’ religious exercise, Cheyenne River responded with a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, in which it argues that the easement’s grant violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and requests that the Court enjoin the effect of the easement and thus the flow of oil, which is expected to commence in the next week or two.”
The judge believes the tribes were unlikely to prevail in their lawsuit and thus denied their request.
The tribes argued that drilling and transporting oil, as well as then construction of the pipeline, will threaten their drinking water source, which is a part of the Missouri River called Lake Oahe.
Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline company that owns Dakota Access, has already been drilling under Lake Oahe for weeks.
Chase Iron Eyes, lead counsel for the Lakota People’s Law Project was very unhappy with the decision. He wrote, “Oil should never be allowed to flow through this pipeline until the legal process has played out in the courts,” and that the federal government is “treating the original inhabitants of this land as though we are less than human, as though our lives and lands are something to be ignored and discarded in the never-ending quest for profit.”
The pipeline, once finished, will have cost more than $3.8 billion and will span across 1,170 miles.
The ruling comes just at the start of a multi-day protest planned in Washington DC. On March 10 water protectors from around the United States will march on Washington DC to protest oil pipelines in general and to tell the federal government, “If there is a spill, they will have oil and blood on their hands and we will not let them forget it.”
Tribal members and supporters also plan to camp on the National Mall in teepees, light a ceremonial fire and hold cultural workshops. The protests are expected to last four days and will also raise awareness for the protection of tribal rights. A rally is also scheduled for Friday.