The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Saturday rejected an emergency request [order, PDF] from two native american tribes attempting to stop oil from flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline. As a result of this rejection, the Dakota Access pipeline could begin could begin operating as soon as tomorrow. The three judge panel rejected the request because the native american tribes “have not satisfied the stringent requirements for issuance of an injunction pending appeal.” The native american tribes are currently appealing an early decision to allow final construction of the pipeline and were seeking to halt any oil flow until that issue was resolved. In a concurring opinion, one judge noted that the denial was due to the fact that the emergency request was based upon the tribes’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) claim, which has not yet been accepted as an issue in the litigation. To grant an injunction under those procedural facts, the judge said, would require a showing that to not grant the RFRA claim would be, as a matter of law, an abuse of discretion by the court – a burden, he contends, which has not been met. The US District Court for the District of Columbia denied the initial request [order, PDF] on March 14, 2017.
In January President Donald Trump signed [JURIST report] an executive order that allowed for construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. On March 8, 2017, a lawsuit attempting to stop the construction of the pipeline on the basis that it would prevent a native american tribe from practicing religious ceremonies was rejected [JURIST report] by the district court. The Dakota Access Pipeline [informational website] is an 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 proximity to multiple large bodies of water, which could become irreparably contaminated should the pipeline fail.