Native tribes to urge judge to block final link in Dakota pipeline

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By Timothy Gardner

<span class="articleLocation”>Native American tribes seeking a halt to
construction of the final link in the Dakota Access Pipeline
will argue in federal court on Monday that the project will
prevent them from practicing religious ceremonies at a lake they
say is surrounded by sacred ground.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week granted a final
easement to Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company
building the $3.8-billion Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), after
President Donald Trump issued an order to advance the pipeline
days after he took office in January.

Lawyers for the Cheyenne River Sioux and the Standing Rock
Sioux will urge Judge James Boasberg in U.S. District Court in
Washington, D.C. at 2:00 p.m. ET (1900 GMT) to block
construction of the project with a temporary restraining order.

“We are contending that the waters of Lake Oahe are sacred
to Cheyenne River and all of its members, and that the very
presence of a pipeline, not only construction but possible oil
flow through that pipeline, would obstruct the free exercise of
our religious practices,” Matthew Vogel, a legislative associate
for the Cheyenne River Sioux, told reporters in a conference
call ahead of the hearing.

The company only needs to build a final 1,100-foot (335
meter) connection in North Dakota under Lake Oahe, part of the
Missouri River system, to complete the pipeline.

It says the 1,170 mile (1,885 km) pipeline, to run from
oilfields in the Northern Plains of North Dakota to the Midwest,
and then to refineries along the Gulf of Mexico, could be
operating by early May.

Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Tribe, said
in the call that the pipeline would also cause economic harm to
Native Americans.

The tribes could be facing a difficult task in convincing
Boasberg to grant the restraining order. Last September, he
rejected a broad request by Native Americans to block the
project. That ruling was superseded by the Obama Administration,
which delayed the line, seeking more environmental review.

Thousands of tribe members and environmental activists have
protested the pipeline setting up camps last year on Army Corps
land in the North Dakota plains. In December, the Obama
Administration denied ETP’s last needed permit, but with Trump’s
stated support of the pipeline, that victory was short-lived for
the Standing Rock Sioux.

The Army Corps has said it will close remaining camps on
federal lands along the Cannonball River in North Dakota after
Feb. 22.

Cleanup efforts continued in the main protest camp located
on federal land over the weekend. Only a few hundred protesters
remain, and crews have been removing tipis and yurts. The
Standing Rock tribe has been asking protesters to leave. (Additional reporting by Terray Sylvester in Cannon Ball, North
Dakota)



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