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Judge Halts Part Of Dakota Pipeline, But A Bigger Decision Looms

A judge stopped construction on parts of the Dakota Access Pipeline on one side of a local highway.

By Grant Suneson | September 7, 2016

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe won a small victory in its attempt to stop an oil pipeline from being built near its land.

A lawsuit temporarily halted some of the pipeline's construction after a judge ruled the Army Corps of Engineers didn't have jurisdiction on private land. In the suit, the tribe said the developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline "desecrated and destroyed" land where chiefs and other leaders were buried.

But the ruling only applies to land east of a local highway. The judge said all the land to the west of the highway is fair game, which the tribe considered a major disappointment.

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"This decision puts our people's sacred sites at risk for continued ruining and desecrating what's important to us," Sioux chairman Dave Archambault said.

The $3.8 billion pipeline is set to pump oil along a 1,100-mile stretch between North Dakota and Illinois. The company said it hasn't damaged any historical sites during construction.

But the tribe says opposing the pipeline isn't just to preserve its past. They're also concerned about what it could mean for their future.

Tribal leaders are worried that the pipeline was constructed too quickly and could rupture, contaminating their drinking water, which comes from the Missouri River.

"Everything that oil is used for, there's an alternative for, there's a renewable alternative for that oil. There is no alternative for water," Joye Braun of the Indigenous Environmental Network said.

A resolution could be coming soon. In July, the tribe filed a lawsuit that alleges the Army Corps of Engineers didn't follow federal laws when it gave the company the go-ahead to drill under the river. 

The case could prompt the judge to issue a permanent injunction against the pipeline. That ruling is expected by the end of the week.

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