The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe [official website] on Thursday filed a legal challenge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] in an attempt to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) [USACE backgrounder]. On Wednesday, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) [official website] officially granted an easement to the DAPL developer [JURIST report]. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which was already part of a lawsuit filed in July [JURIST report] against the DAPL with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe [official website], filed one motion seeking a temporary restraining order [text, PDF] to immediately stop construction around Lake Oahe while the original lawsuit is pending, as well as adding a freedom of religion claim [text, PDF] by stating that it “will desecrate the waters” that are used for religious practices. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s second motion is for a preliminary injunction [text, PDF] to prevent enforcement of the easement on the basis that it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [LII materials]. If construction continues, the pipeline is expected to be operational in just under three months.
The Dakota Access Pipeline [informational website] is a partially constructed oil pipeline that would transport more than 470,000 barrels of oil per day over its 1,172 mile length through North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. In December the USACE announced [JURIST report] that an alternate route will be investigated for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The controversy surrounding the project is connected with its proposed proximity to multiple large bodies of water that could become irreparably contaminated should the pipeline fail. Protesters have made camp at the site since early summer and are led in part by the Indigenous Environmental Network [advocacy website] and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Conflict between protesters and police has been condemned by both the UN and the American Civil Liberties Union. In November the ACLU reported that police at the Standing Rock site in North Dakota used life-threatening weapons to control protesters [JURIST report]. Earlier that month a UN rights group released a statement expressing concerns that the US government is ignoring treaty rights, as well as human rights [JURIST report] of Native Americans and others that are protesting the DAPL.