Sioux Tribe Asks Court to Block Final Link in Dakota Access

  • Challenge comes one day after Army grants company an easement
  • Predawn filing reignites fight over Energy Transfer pipeline

A demonstrator holds a sign during a protest against the building of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) near the White House in Washington on Feb. 8, 2017.

A Sioux Indian tribe asked a federal court judge in Washington to block the final link in Energy Transfer Partners LP’s Dakota Access pipeline, the day after the U.S. Army gave the final go-ahead to complete it.

The Cheyenne River tribe is also seeking to force the Army to retract that authorization. Both requests were filed early Thursday morning, less than a day after the government issued the last-needed approvals to the Energy Transfer-led consortium, Dakota Access LLC, which is building the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometer) conduit.

The filings follow President Donald Trump’s Jan. 24 memorandum ordering the Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate its review of the project. He also revived TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline project, which had been thwarted by President Barack Obama.

The Cheyenne River Sioux filings reignite a lawsuit filed last year by another Sioux tribe, the Standing Rock, which sought an order halting construction, citing sacred Native American lands being crossed by the pipeline in North Dakota.

Government Review

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg and a federal appeals court rejected their bid but the Army Corps of Engineers still put the project on hold and ordered an environmental review of where the pipeline passes under Lake Oahe, which straddles the North Dakota/South Dakota border. That was canceled by the government earlier this week when it announced the Dakota Access easement would be granted.

“The Lakota people believe that the mere existence of a crude oil pipeline under the waters of Lake Oahe will desecrate those waters and render them unsuitable for use in their religious sacraments,” according to the filing Thursday. “The Lakota people believe that the pipeline correlates with a terrible Black Snake prophesied to come into the Lakota homeland and cause destruction,” the tribe argued, citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Vicki Granado, a spokeswoman for Energy Transfer, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the Justice Department, declined to comment.

Read more here on the Standing Rock’s fight against the easement

Dakota Access LLC had asked the court to compel the Army to issue its final approval, contending the consortium had met all the requirements for it. That motion was still pending when the Army issued the easement. The parties were already due back in court on Feb. 13 for a status conference before the Thursday Sioux filing.

The case is Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 16-cv-1534, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

— With assistance by Meenal Vamburkar

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