Obama Administration Orders Halt To Construction Of North Dakota Access Pipeline, Right After Federal Judge Ruled Against Tribes Protesting DAPL

The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline has been protested every step of the way by members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose water supply is threatened by the pipeline, and they have even taken the federal government to court over the plans. Earlier today, it seemed as if Energy Transfer Partners had won when a federal court sided with the company and granted it permission to continue the Dakota Access Pipeline, however, soon afterwards, the Obama Administration announced that it would have the construction stop.

Months have passed since the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota began protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in an attempt to stop the major project from running through their lands. The Native American tribe argued that the location of the pipeline would be a violation of their federal laws, along with the fact that it would jeopardize the water supply for the tribe.

The protests gained national attention and those who were against the building of the pipeline argued their concern for the environmental impact it would have on the land, and also that the proposed location for it is sacred ground for the tribe. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe say that Energy Transfer Partners did not consult with them properly regarding the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and they challenged the permit that the Army Corps of Engineers’ had granted to the company. The Native American tribe went on to attempt to show that multiple federal laws were violated in the construction.

Earlier today, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg found in favor of the defendants and ruled that no injunction to halt the construction of the $3.8 billion project would be issued and the tribe found their case denied. The argument they put forth is that not only is the Dakota Access Pipeline causing destruction to a site which holds great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the tribe, but also violates the National Historic Preservation Act.

However, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of the Army were quick to overrule the decision of the court and placed a temporary halt on the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The Obama Administration released a statement regarding its support of the move and desire to not move forward until the Army “can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.”

“Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution. In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”

The possibility of the devastation to the environment that a leak into Lake Oahe could have was of major concern to the protesters. They have been staging a peaceful blockade that turned violent recently when mace and attack dogs were used against the protesters, an incident that was feared to be on the verge of repeating since Thursday saw the deployment of the state’s national guard to protect the pipeline.

The language which the Obama Administration used in halting the construction, though, is essentially a request to the company, but whether or not they choose to comply and voluntarily stop their project has yet to be seen. In the wake of the government’s decision, The Hill wrote that the Dakota Access developers declined to comment, but one of their supporters, Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, said that they were deeply troubled by the decision and the possible long-lasting effect the Obama Administration’s interference could have on “private infrastructure development in the United States.”

Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault II, celebrated the decision, but vowed that the fight against the project was not at an end.

“I want to take a moment and reflect on this historic moment in Indian Country. But I know that our work is not done. We need to permanently protect our sacred sites and our water. There are areas on the construction route that do not fall within federal jurisdiction, so we will continue to fight.”

Executive Director of the Sierra Club, one of the major environmental organizations in the United States, Michael Brune released a statement hailing the Obama Administration for their decision, stating that the “brave and principled stand by the Standing Rock Sioux” led to the aid provided tonight. They went on to say that the tribe’s fight here has been indicative of the oppression and injustice that so many Native Americans have been fighting against in the country for generations.

[Photo by David Zalubowski/AP Images]

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