Judge: Dakota Access Can be Completed, Tribal Religious Objection Denied

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Oil pipeline
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A Washington, D.C. federal judge on Tuesday rejected the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s bid to block operation of the Dakota Access pipeline on federal land in North Dakota, saying the tribe likely won’t be able to show that the federal government interfered with its exercise of religion on land outside the tribal reservation by allowing the project to go forward.

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Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected the tribes’ request for an injunction to withdraw permission issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the last, eight-mile link of the oil pipeline underneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

Energy Transfer Partners LP is building the $3.8 billion pipeline to move crude oil from the Northern Plains to the Midwest and then, via existing pipelines, on to the Gulf of Mexico where some of it will be sold for export. The Cheyenne River Sioux and the Standing Rock Sioux tribes have been leading the legal challenge to the pipeline but now two federal judges have rejected their request to stop the pipeline on what the tribes say are religious grounds. The tribes had argued that the pipeline would render water they use for religious ceremonies “spiritually impure” even if the pipeline runs entirely through the bedrock underneath Lake Oahe and never comes in contact with the water.

Energy Transfer Partners needs only to finish eight miles of construction of the pipeline beneath Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri River system, to connect a final gap in the 1,170-mile pipeline, which will move oil from the Bakken shale formation to a terminus in Illinois. When oil begins to flow from the pipeline to the Midwest it will likely bring down costs for both rail and highway tanker cars which are currently being used to transport the oil, which caused a shortage of available cars for other bulk commodities such as steel and grain.

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Energy Transfer said in a statement late Monday that it plans to start pumping oil through a section of the line under the Missouri River by the week of March 13. A spokeswoman said the company was pleased with Boasberg’s decision.

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