Monday, March 27, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Injunction Against Dakota Access Pipeline Construction Dissolved

(CN) — On the eve of a holiday that honors the colonial invasion of America, the D.C. Circuit served defeat to a tribe protesting construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The injunction-dissolving order issued Sunday is just a few short paragraphs long but expresses sympathy for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

"Although the tribe has not met the narrow and stringent standard governing this extraordinary form of relief, we recognize Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act was intended to mediate precisely the disparate perspectives involved in a case such as this one," the unsigned order states. "Its consultative process — designed to be inclusive and facilitate consensus — ensures competing interests are appropriately considered and adequately addressed. But ours is not the final word."

The order concludes with noting that attorneys for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts a decision this month on whether to grant an easement that lets Dakota Access build under the Lake Oahe in North and South Dakota.

Dakota Access meanwhile "has rights of access to the limited portion of pipeline corridor not yet cleared — where the tribe alleges additional historic sites are at risk," the order continues. "We can only hope the spirit of Section 106 may yet prevail."

A representative for the tribe said the protest will continue.

"The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is not backing down from this fight," Standing Rock Sioux Tribe chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement through Earthjustice. "We are guided by prayer and we will continue to fight for our people. We will not rest until our lands, people, waters and sacred places are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline."

The United States observes Columbus Day as a federal holiday, but several government agencies offered Native Americans a lifeline Monday afternoon in a joint statement on the court's order.

"The Army continues to review issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members and hopes to conclude its ongoing review soon," the statement says. "In the interim, the Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe. We repeat our request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.

"We also look forward to a serious discussion during a series of consultations, starting with a listening session in Phoenix on Tuesday, on whether there should be nationwide reform on the tribal consultation process for these types of infrastructure projects."

In addition to the Department of the Army, the statement was co-signed by the Departments of Justice and the Interior.

"We appreciate the D.C. Circuit's opinion," it says. "We continue to respect the right to peaceful protest and expect people to obey the law."

The Standing Rock Sioux says work on the pipeline in parts of North Dakota will disturb sacred land.

After a federal judge refused to block the four-state pipeline, the tribe filed its appeal, requested a temporary injunction from the court and lobbied the government to withdraw permits for the project.

The D.C. Circuit's original injunction temporarily stopped Energy Transfer Partners LP's work within 20 miles of Lake Oahe.

A three-judge panel with the Washington-based court held oral arguments on the case Wednesday.

In addition to dissolving the administrative injunction, the federal appeals court denied the tribe's emergency motion for an injunction.

Developing story...

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.