Federal judge orders partial temporary stop to Dakota Access pipeline

- A federal judge has issued a limited temporary restraining order stopping a small portion of construction on the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled Tuesday that work will temporarily stop between North Dakota's State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe, but will continue west of the highway because he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lacks jurisdiction on private land.

Judge Boasberg said he will rule on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's challenge of federal regulators' decision to grant permits to the Texas-based operators of Dakota Access pipeline by the end of the week.

Dakota Access is a nearly 1,700 mile pipeline designed to carry light sweet crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken and Three Forks fields across four states to refineries in southern Illinois.

But the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota believes the pipeline’s path runs through sensitive native burial sites.

In federal court documents filed on Sept. 2, surveyor Tim Mentz Sr. said his surveys on both sides of Hwy 1806 discovered “a significant number of stone features (82) and archeological sites, including at least 27 burials.” 

After bulldozer operations on the land on Saturday, Sept. 3, Mentz said in a follow-up court brief that any archeological site in that corridor would have been destroyed.  “I do not believe that the timing of this construction was an accident or coincidence,” Mentz said in the brief.

The area was the scene of protests this weekend by tribal members and opponents of the pipeline.  Video posted on Facebook by Red Warrior Camp showed protestors clashing with construction guards and their dogs. 

A spokesman for Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law organization, said Judge Boasberg’s temporary injunction does not include a work stoppage on the land that was the scene of the protests.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers filed a brief supporting the temporary injunction on land it controls. 

“The Corps acknowledges that the public interest would be served by preserving peace near Lake Oahe until the Court can render its well-considered opinion on Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction,” said the Corps’ brief.

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