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<span class="articleLocation”>The U.S. Army on Wednesday began the process of
launching an environmental study of the Dakota Access pipeline
crossing in North Dakota, a move that has been challenged by the
company constructing the controversial project.
The Army said on Wednesday it is gathering information to
prepare an environmental impact statement regarding an easement
to cross at Lake Oahe, a water source upstream from the Standing
Rock Sioux reservation that has been the focus of months of
fierce protests due to fears the pipeline could damage drinking
water and desecrate sacred grounds.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in December denied Energy
Transfer Partners an easement to drill under the lake.
The Army announcement comes as demonstrators renew
opposition against the $3.8 billion project, with arrests this
week bringing the total to more than 600, according to law
Energy Transfer Partners requested on Monday that a U.S.
District Court judge for the District of Columbia stop the Corps
from initiating the environmental impact statement process until
there is a ruling on whether the company already has necessary
approvals for the pipeline crossing.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg had scheduled a hearing
in the case for Wednesday afternoon.
In July 2015, the Corps granted Energy Transfer Partners
permission for its proposed pipeline crossing at Lake Oahe.
For months, Native Americans and environmental activists
have been protesting the pipeline, garnering support from
celebrities and on social media.
Following the Army Corp’s December announcement, the
Standing Rock Sioux asked demonstrators to disperse and many
did. However, some have remained.
Sixteen people were arrested on Monday and Tuesday for a
number of offenses, including engaging in a riot and assault on
a peace officer, bringing the total number of arrests to 603
since Aug. 10 which was around the time the protests began,
according to Maxine Herr, a spokeswoman for the Morton County
The department is hoping that President-elect Donald Trump
will deploy federal help to law enforcement managing protesters.
“When Trump takes office we foresee a significant change in
terms of federal assistance,” Herr said.
The North Dakota National Guard had deployed a missile
defense system to the area near the protest site, but it was
unarmed and being used only for observation purposes, said Amber
Balken, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota National Guard.
The Avenger missile system had been in place for a “few
weeks,” but would be removed Wednesday, Balken said.
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