A U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. has ordered the company building the Dakota Access oil pipeline to stop construction for 20 miles on both sides of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe while the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s appeal of its denied motion to do so is considered.
“ORDERED that Dakota Access LLC be enjoined pending further order of the court from construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline for 20 miles on both sides of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe,” a three-judge panel wrote in its decision, handed down late on Friday September 16. “The purpose of this administrative injunction is to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the emergency motion for injunction pending appeal and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion.”
This solidifies a request by the federal government on September 9 for Energy Transfer Partners to cease construction along the same swathe, which the Standing Rock Sioux say contains sacred artifacts and ancient burial grounds.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II expressed relief at the decision.
"This is a temporary administrative injunction and is meant to maintain status quo while the court decides what to do with the Tribe's motion," he said in a statement. "The Tribe appreciates this brief reprieve from pipeline construction and will continue to oppose this project, which will severly jeopardize its water and cultural resources. We will not rest until our lands, people, waters, and sacred sites are permanently protected from this destructive pipeline."
Attorneys for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe—which has signed on as an intervenor in the case—faced off with Dakota Access LLC attorneys on September 15 in federal district court in Washington before the three-judge panel that will also hear the appeal: Janice Rogers Brown, Thomas B. Griffith and Cornelia T.L. Pillard. They voted 2–1 to stop the company from working, according to the order, with Brown casting the dissenting vote.
Also on Friday, a Bismarck judge dissolved the temporary restraining order on protesting that had been levied against Archambault, Tribal Council Member Dana Yellow Fat, and several other tribal members.
Also on Friday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe obtained an official permit to use federal lands managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers near Lake Oahe on the Missouri River, allowing the tribe to “gather to engage in a lawful free speech demonstration on Federal lands designated in the permit,” the Corps announced.
The approval of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s permit application was delivered on Friday by Army Corps Omaha District Commander Col. John W. Henderson.
“The Tribe’s Special Use Permit application requested use of lands to the north and south of the mouth of the Cannonball River,” the Army Corps said in a statement. “However, because the northern property is subject to an existing grazing lease, this portion of the application is not being acted on at this time.”
The permit enables the water protectors to continue gathering where they have been camped out since mid-August, and to use the land for “lawful purposes,” the Army Corps said.
“Thousands of people have peacefully gathered in prayer and solidarity against the Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Archambault in the Army Corps statement. “We appreciate the cooperation of the Corps in protecting the First Amendment rights of all water protectors.”
The tribe will take on site maintenance, pay for any damage or necessary restoration, provide liability insurance and be responsible for welfare, safety and supervision of those using the land. Standing Rock also agrees to restore the land to its original condition when they are done.
Henderson said the Army Corps was committed to its relationship with Standing Rock and all Indigenous Peoples in the United States.
“Among our many diverse missions is managing and conserving our natural resources. I want to encourage those who are using the permitted area to be good stewards and help us to protect these valuable resources,” said Henderson. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a deep respect for the traditions, culture, and concerns of all Native American Tribes, and we are committed to strengthening our enduring partnership with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.”