A federal judge on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] against Native American tribes seeking to stop construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) [fact sheet]. Judge James Boasberg of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] rejected the arguments of the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Souix that construction of the pipeline would prevent the tribe from practicing religious ceremonies. The tribes argued [Reuters report] that the pipeline would render water they use impure and therefore prevent them from performing religious ceremonies with the spiritually impure water. This decision comes after the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) provided a grant to use [JURIST report] the last piece of land necessary to construct the pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. Boasberg questioned [AP report] the merits of the tribe’s argument and held that the tribes didn’t raise their argument in a timely fashion as the religious assertion was new in light of the Army Corps grant. In previous arguments the tribes had maintained that construction would simply threaten tribal lands.
The DAPL [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. 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 [official website]. 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.