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  • Protesters block highway 1806 in Mandan during a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline, North Dakota, Nov. 23, 2016.

    Protesters block highway 1806 in Mandan during a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline, North Dakota, Nov. 23, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

"The federal courts have stepped in where our political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities." said Hasselman.

Water protectors made significant progress Wednesday when a federal judge deemed the safety evaluations of the Dakota Access Pipeline were insufficient and said the Army Corps of Engineers needed to "reconsider" the analysis of the risks the crude oil pipeline poses to the environment and people.

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According to the U.S. District Judge James Boasberg the Corps "did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline's effects are likely to be highly controversial."

Water protectors are calling the 91-page ruling as one of the "most significant" environmental justice legislations. Jan Hasselman, the lead attorney for the case, who works for Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group that represented the Standing Rock Sioux, told Common Dreams, “This is a very significant victory and vindication of the tribe’s opinion."

The Dakota Access Pipeline runs across much of the Great Plains, nearly 1,100 miles, connecting the Bakken oil formation in North Dakota to a refinery and another pipeline in Illinois.

Last week, David Archambault III, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, told the Atlantic, "When we first entered into this, we understood the history, we knew the facts, we knew the laws,” he said.

“We still have to bring it all up. Because just because (the situation) is legally right, it’s morally and ethically wrong. What happened at Standing Rock is a movement, and you don’t see the benefits of a movement until way later," he continued.

The ruling comes after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that filed a lawsuit nearly a year ago. But even though the judge hasn't ruled to stop the oil flow, the Native American tribes and activists are considering it a substantial win, nonetheless, as the water protectors are counting it as their "first legal victory." And even more so after joining the office, Trump asserted that he would do everything to ensure the US$3.8-billion project moves forward.

"This decision marks an important turning point," he said. "The federal courts have stepped in where our political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities. Until now, the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump administration — prompting a well-deserved global outcry."

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In line with the environmental groups' projected fears, the pipeline almost immediately began to spring leaks. Oil began flowing through the pipeline earlier this month.

Hasselman said the ruling is a major step and shouldn't be undermined merely as "minor, paperwork transgressions."

Joye Braun, Cheyenne River Lakota, a community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a statement, "We've been saying the Environmental Analysis was not in line with the law, and that based on treaty rights, this project should never have been built."

"While we wish the flow of oil would be stopped until the hearings are completed, we trust that through prayer and continued vigilance we will stop the flow of oil and make Energy Transfer Partners and this administration keep fossil fuels in the ground," Braun added.

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