Denied Appeal: Native Tribe to Continue Fighting Dakota Access Pipeline

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The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has vowed to continue in its battle against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline despite a court’s decision to turn down its appeal against the project.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Sunday night rejected the appeal of the Native American tribe to block the construction of an oil pipeline which it said would cross its water source and destroy some of its culturally important sites. In a two-page ruling, the three-judge panel declared that the tribe’s attempt to stop the project had been not made in line with the legal standards required to force such a decision.

The judges, however, expressed some level of compassion for the tribe in their verdict.

“Although the tribe has not met the narrow and stringent standard governing this extraordinary form of relief, we recognize that Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act was intended to mediate the disparate perspectives involved in a case such as this one,” the ruling read.

In spite of its ruling, the court stated that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has the final say on the pipeline project.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is a $3.7 billion project for the construction of oil pipeline that would extend some 1,172 miles. The pipeline, which would pass a half mile within the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation, is planned to transport 470,000 barrels of light crude oil per day across four states. It would run from North Dakota to Illinois.

Construction of the pipeline has generated significant controversy in recent months. Thousands of people have joined over 300 federally-known American Indian tribes in recent month at Cannon Ball, N.D. in protest against the project.

Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II has described the appeals court ruling as disappointing. He however noted that the court statement that its ruling was “not the final word” is an encouraging sign that it does not agree with continuation of the project.

The tribal chief told NBCNews that the fight against the pipeline construction would continue.

For now, the ruling appears to have cleared the road for the Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners to proceed with the project. Protests and a temporary injunction given in August had forced the pipeline construction to be suspended.

The tribe appealed against the Dakota Access Pipeline based on the provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act. It argued that places of cultural and religious importance would be negatively impacted by the project. There was also concern over threat to the people’s water source as a result of possible spill from the pipeline.

The Army Corps of Engineers has jurisdiction over the area of land in contention. It was sued by the tribe for insufficient consultation, as stipulated under the National Historic Preservation Act, before granting approval to Energy Transfer Partners in July.

The Corps of Engineers, the Department of Justice and the Interior Department had reportedly indicated in September that no construction work would be allowed on federal land around the Missouri River, which is the main water source for the tribe. The prohibition would remain until extensive reviews of environmental decisions have been done.