A U.S. federal judge on Monday rejected an emergency request from the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes that sought to halt construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the pipeline, resumed construction last Thursday after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted the final easement it needed to drill under Lake Oahe, a reservoir off of the Missouri River near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled "that as long as oil isn't flowing through the pipeline, there is no imminent harm to the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes," reported the Associated Press.
The tribe had argued that "the project would prevent them from practicing religious ceremonies at a lake they contend is surrounded by sacred ground," Reuters noted.
The tribes say the pipeline would endanger their cultural sites and water supply. They added a religious freedom component to their case last week by arguing that clean water is necessary to practice the Sioux religion.
"The mere presence of the oil in the pipeline renders the water spiritually impure," said Nicole Ducheneaux, lawyer for the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe.
Boasberg said he would consider arguments more fully at another scheduled hearing on February 27, at which the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will seek an injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for granting the final easement.
"Judge Boasberg ordered Energy Transfer Partners to update the court on Monday and every week thereafter on when oil is expected to flow beneath Lake Oahe," Reuters reported.
"We're disappointed with today’s ruling denying a temporary restraining order against the Dakota Access Pipeline, but we are not surprised," Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, said in a statement, according to Reuters.
While the legal routes to defeat the pipeline are winnowing, the water protectors' stand against its construction is ongoing. Military veterans are once again traveling to Standing Rock to protect the tribe against a brutal militarized police force as they exercise their right to peaceful protest:
Yet some veterans report a police crackdown as they travel to Standing Rock, telling the Guardian that law enforcement throughout the region appear to be targeting them.
The newspaper reports:
Officers in North Dakota and South Dakota have pulled over and searched at least four veterans on their way to the camps at Standing Rock in recent days, charging two of them for medical cannabis. Police confiscated one veteran's car and also seized what officials called "protester gear," which included camping supplies.
The charges against two veterans, who said they use medical cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, come days after a veterans service organization announced it would be returning to Standing Rock to provide support. Indigenous activists, known as water protectors, have been fighting the $3.7bn pipeline since last spring and have continued to live at camps near the construction site as drilling has resumed.
"I'm honestly disgusted. It makes no sense to us," Mark Sanderson, executive director of VeteransRespond, the group coordinating the return to Standing Rock, told the Guardian. "Why are you trying to attack a group of veterans doing nothing more than a humanitarian aid mission in North Dakota?"