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Judge Denies Tribes' Request to Block DAPL, Legal Options Narrow

Judge to hear arguments on Dakota Access pipeline work

A U.S. district judge Monday denied an emergency request by two North Dakota tribes to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline as crews rush to finish the last section of the 470,000 b/d Bakken crude outlet.

Previous court filings by potentially affected tribes had made no mention of the Dakota Access Pipeline potentially compromising their ability to freely practice their religion.

After an hourlong hearing on Monday evening, US District Judge James Boasberg ruled that as long as oil isn't flowing through the pipeline, there is no threat to the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes, but he added that he would hear the arguments thoroughly at another session on February 27.

That gives the tribes hope that they still might prevail, Cheyenne River Chairman Harold Frazier said.

The 1,200-mile pipeline would carry North Dakota oil through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in IL.

They argued that the pipeline would hurt their water supply, and prevent them from practicing religious ceremonies at the lake.

The drilling work is expected to take about two months.

Lawyers for Dakota Access filed documents Monday calling the tribes' religious claims "exceedingly tardy" and saying the harm cited by the tribes didn't meet the standards of a restraining order.

Chad Harrison, a councilman at-large for the Standing Rock Sioux, said the federal government and the pipeline company "ignored the concerns of the tribe" for nearly three years before the Obama administration paused the project last October.

Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, said in a statement that the tribe is disappointed with the ruling, but not surprised.

A lawyer for Dakota Access LLC, the company building the pipeline, offered a new, faster possible timeline for construction to finish.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

Before heading to court Monday, it was widely anticipated that the legal team representing the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes would have a tough time proving their case to Judge Boasberg and getting the restraining order they so desperately sought. However, this was the same easement that was denied by the Army Corps last December. The Army is involved because its engineering branch manages the river and its system of hydroelectric dams, which is owned by the federal government.

Trump signed an executive order shortly after taking the oath of office that calls for the expedited review and approval of domestic energy infrastructure like Dakota Access and the Keystone XL oil pipelines.

Almost 700 people have been arrested since protests first began a year ago, according to law enforcement officials.