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  • Indigenous leaders participate in a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines.

    Indigenous leaders participate in a protest march and rally in opposition to the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. | Photo: Reuters

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has vowed to keep up legal pressure to stop the pipeline.

Oil could be flowing through the embattled Dakota Access pipeline as early as Monday as a U.S. appeals court shut down a request Saturday from a Native American tribe for an “emergency” order against the project in a last-ditch effort to halt the pipeline.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe failed to fulfill “stringent requirements” needed to grant the injunction.

Judge Patricia Millett agreed with an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in denying the request for an emergency order against the pipeline.

According to a recent status report on the pipeline from Dakota Access LLC, the subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners developing the pipeline, the project is on track to be up and running as early as Monday. A new progress report is expected to be released Monday, according to a judge's orders for weekly updates, and will likely reveal the outcome of final testing that the company reported would determine the start date for introducing oil into the pipeline.

Boosting the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s legal arguments against the controversial US$3.8 billion project, the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe has also challenged the Dakota Access pipeline on the grounds that, by tunneling oil under Lake Oahe, the line will desecrate the water resources used in sacred tribal ceremonies.

The tribe has argued that the pipeline through federal lands violates the U.S. Religious Freedom and Restoration Act protecting the right to carry out religious practices, which, in the case of Native American tribes, are closely tied to the land and water considered sacred.  

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Judge Millett’s ruling stated that the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe’s use of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act in appealing for an injunction stood on weak footing without an outcome on another legal complaint that is still pending.

While the court denied the appeal, other legal complaints against the project are still in process. Native American groups have argued that the 1,170-mile pipeline desecrates sacred sites, goes against historical preservation and environmental laws and violates U.S. government treaty responsibilities.  

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted the easement for the pipeline on Feb. 7 despite a December move to freeze the project pending more thorough environmental assessment. The Army Corps gave the greenlight to the project just days after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 31 reviving the controversial project together with the Keystone XL pipeline.

In a recent interview released by the Standing Rock administration and published on Indian Country Media Network, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II said that the tribe will continue to argue that scrapping the Environmental Impact Statement was “unlawful” and issuing the easement was “arbitrary and capricious.”

“We will continue to fight for tribal consent, not mere consultation, and continue to fight to change the way infrastructure projects proceed in this country. Indigenous Peoples should not have to bear the sole risk for corporate gain,” he said.

“We have seen too many environmental disasters on tribal treaty resources in the United States,” he added. “Enough is enough – treaty violations must be stopped.”

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