North Dakota pipeline construction suspended by request of US government
North Dakota pipeline construction suspended by request of US government

[JURIST] Construction on the Dakota Access oil pipeline was paused on Friday by request of three federal agencies that urged pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners [corporate website] to pause its lawful building after a federal judge ruled [opinion, PDF] in the company’s favor. US District Judge James Boasberg denied injunctive relief to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe [tribe website], which had sought to prevent the Dakota Access pipeline from being built across sacred land. In his opinion, Boasberg stated, “this Court does not lightly countenance any depredation of lands that hold significance to the Standing Rock Sioux” and that, “the Court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care. Having done so, the Court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.” Soon thereafter, the Departments of Justice, Interior and Army [official websites] released a joint statement [text] in which they pledged to “reconsider any of its previous decisions” on land around Lake Oahe, a sacred Sioux sight, and “highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.” Within this statement, the agencies requested that the Dallas-based pipeline owner voluntarily suspend building while they sort out policy issues.

The rights of indigenous peoples have become a pressing international legal topic in the past decade. In this case, Boasberg issued [JURIST report] a temporary injunction to halt building earlier this week, with the caveat that it would be superseded by his Friday ruling. In other indigenous matters, a federal appeals court in July rejected [JURIST report] Alaska’s challenge in a case determining the right of Alaskan tribes to place land in a federal trust. In May Canada’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett stated [JURIST report] it would drop its objector status against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In April JURIST Guest Columnist Dwight Newman of the University of Saskatchewan discussed [JURIST op-ed] what is happening with recent leave decisions related to Indigenous rights and Canadian energy regulation. In March Canadian indigenous people, including Inuits of Nunavut and the Chippewa, were granted [JURIST report] an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, challenging the use of seismic testing to find natural gas under the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay. In February experts from the UN and the Inter-American human rights systems urged [JURIST report] Canada to address the “root causes” of the extreme violence and discrimination against indigenous women and girls in that country.