WASHINGTON — A District of Columbia federal judge on Monday turned down a request to temporarily block construction on the Dakota Access pipeline, saying there would not be any risk of immediate harm until oil starts flowing.
But U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, while denying Native American tribes’ request for a temporary restraining order, ordered the pipeline company to provide weekly updates about when it expected oil to begin flowing, leaving open the possibility of further court action. He set a date of Feb. 27 for a hearing on whether to issue a preliminary injunction at that time.
David Debold, an attorney for Dakota Access, said that oil could start flowing in 30 days or even earlier, a faster schedule than other company representatives have given.
Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice and an adviser to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said the tribes expect to file by Tuesday a new, broader motion seeking partial summary judgment under the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and Administrative Process Act.
The motion Boasberg rejected Monday was based solely on religious freedom grounds, with the tribes arguing that the Missouri River and Lake Oahe are integral parts of their sacred rights and beliefs.
A new filing would likely raise very different legal questions.
The Dakota Access pipeline, which would carry crude oil about 1,170 miles from western North Dakota across four states to the refineries and pipeline networks in Illinois, has been the focus of legal maneuvering and protests for months.
The Standing Rock Sioux say the pipeline disturbs sacred burial grounds and archaeological sites and endangers water supplies. Then-President Barack Obama ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ask the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, to submit environmental impact statements on alternative routes. But then President Donald Trump dropped the requirement of a new environmental impact statement and ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to speedily issue the final easement the company needed to finish construction.
“We’re disappointed with today’s ruling denying a temporary restraining order against the Dakota Access pipeline, but we are not surprised. We know this fight is far from over,” said Chase Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and lead counsel in a group defending Lakota rights.
Iron Eyes said the tribes would continue to pursue legal remedies through the courts and push for the completion of a full environmental impact statement.
“It tells you they’re overlooking our role as a tribal government, as a sovereign nation,” said Frank White Bull, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council. “Of course, it’s disappointing, but it is not the end of the fight. Our fight is perpetual as long as the Lakota people are in existence.”
Iron Eyes said that the Standing Rock Sioux would continue to urge protesters to “resist this pipeline on the ground, peacefully and prayerfully.”
Washington Post writers Joe Heim and Brady Dennis contributed to this report.