A federal appeals court denied the request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to stop construction on a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, arguing that the tribe had failed to demonstrate that an injunction on construction was warranted.
That means that construction can resume on a section of the pipeline that runs within 20 miles of Lake Oahe in North Dakota, a sacred area which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has argued holds deep cultural significance to their community. The pipeline, if completed, would run 1,170-miles and transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day across four states. But it would also run within a mile and a half of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation, and could potentially threaten the Missouri River, the tribe’s sole water supply.
On September 16, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered a temporary injunction against construction on any part of the pipeline within 20 miles of Lake Oahe, while the court considered whether or not to halt construction further (the project is currently 60 percent complete). Following the court’s decision yesterday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe expressed disappointment that the court did not decide to extend the halt on construction, but vowed to keep fighting the pipeline.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is not backing down from this fight,” Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a statement posted to Facebook on Sunday. “We are guided by prayer, and we will continue to fight for our people. We will not rest until our lands, people, waters and sacred places are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline.”
Indigenous communities — standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and joined by environmental activists from around the world — have protested the pipeline for months. This summer, the protests, coupled with a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, forced construction to halt. The Standing Rock Sioux argued the government had not adequately consulted the tribe before granting approval to Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based energy company behind the project.
In an ironic twist, the D.C. court’s decision to allow construction to go forward was issued just a day before Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a counter-celebration to Columbus Day aimed at drawing attention to the brutal genocide, violation of human rights, and suppression of indigenous cultures that followed the arrival of European explorers in the Americas.
In a statement issued Monday morning, the Indigenous Environmental Network pledged continued solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and other indigenous groups currently protesting the pipeline.
“We are troubled by the court’s decision, but as water protectors and land defenders, our resolve to stop this Bakken frack-oil pipeline will not be diminished,” Dallas Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said. “We will continue to support the tribe’s efforts to hold the US federal government accountable for rubber stamping this dirty oil project. Meanwhile, our hearts and minds go to the pipeline fighters who will continue to use prayer and peaceful civil disobedience to disrupt business-as-usual and stop this black snake from being completed. This fight is far from over.”
Following the court’s decision, three federal agencies ordered construction to remain stopped on any federal land. In September, the Obama administration ordered construction of the pipeline to stop on all federally owned land until government agencies — including the Army Corps, the Justice Department and the Interior Department — could fully assess the likely environmental impact of the pipeline. That decision, according to the agencies, could still be weeks away.