APTN National News
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday moved to temporarily block construction of a controversial four-state pipeline shortly after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe lost a bid before the U.S. Federal Court to stop the project.
The U.S. Department of Justice, the Army and the Department of the Interior issued a statement it would stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on land next to or under Lake Oahe which is under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers. The decision puts a freeze on construction in a zone about 30 kilometres to the east and west of the lake, which is large reservoir on the Missouri River.
The Standing Rock Tribe issued a statement calling the Obama administration’s intervention a “stunning move” and a “game changer.”
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chair Dave Archambault later told reporters that the fight wasn’t over, but “this is a beautiful start.” He also danced with supporters after the news broke.
“Our hearts are full, this is an historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and for tribes across the nation,” said Archambault II. “Today, three federal agencies announced the significant decision to respect tribal sovereignty and stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Army Corps land.”
The joint statement was issued shortly after a U.S. Federal Court judge Friday denied an attempt by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline.
Federal Court Judge James Boasberg said the Tribe failed to make the case for an injunction to stop construction of the 1,886 kilometre pipeline, which would pump about 500,000 barrels per day of fracked oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota to Illinois where it would connect with existing infrastructure.
Boasberg said the tribe’s application, which took aim at permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, failed to show the injunction would protect the sacred sites the Sioux said where threatened by the project. Many of the burial and sacred sites identified by the Tribe sit on private land which are beyond the court’s scope in the case, said the judge.
“The Tribe thus cannot demonstrate that the temporary relief it seeks here…can prevent the harm to cultural sights that might occur from this construction on private lands,” said Boasberg, in the ruling. “In other words, Standing Rock cannot show that any harm taking place on private lands removed from the Crops’ permitting jurisdiction ‘will directly result from the action which it now seeks to enjoin.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in the statement it also planned to appeal the judge’s decision.
The statement from the three U.S. federal departments said construction next to and under Lake Oahe would stop until the Army completed a review of its decision on permits issued under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The statement also said the Obama administration wanted to begin talks with Native American Tribes on improving government-to-government consultations on infrastructure projects impacting their territories.
Archambault said he looked forward to beginning the discussion with the U.S. government.
“The Obama administration has asked tribes to the table to make sure that we have meaningful consultation on infrastructure projects. Native peoples have suffered generations of broken promises and today the federal government said that national reform is needed to better ensure that tribes have a voice on infrastructure projects like this pipeline,” he said.
The the federal departments also called on the demonstrators and the pipeline operator to proceed with restraint.
“We fully support the rights of all Americans to assembly and speak freely. We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence,” said the joint statement from the federal departments. “We have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have received support from dozens of Native American Tribe and thousands of people have converge on the Sacred Stone Camp on the reservation to support the battle against the pipeline creating the largest Native American gathering in a century.
Numerous Canadian First Nations from coast-to-coast have also issued statements of support for the Sioux and many Indigenous people have traveled south across the border to bolster the ranks of the camp.