Judge Threads Needle on Dakota Access Pipeline Temporary Restraining Order

A federal judge has granted in part and denied in part the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's request to temporarily stop work on a portion of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. At issue is the Sioux Nation's attempt to protect ancient prayer and burial grounds.

U.S. District Judge Boasberg said that work will temporarily stop between State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe, but that work will continue west of the highway. At issue is whether The United States Army Corps of Engineers has any jurisdiction on the private land.

This means that the site of mass grave and artifact desecration by contractors at the site of a violent confrontation between protestors and Energy Transfer Inc.'s security forces over the holiday weekend is not resolved. Women and children were maced, pepper sprayed, and attacked by security dogs, according to Tribal Leaders. Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said in a press release, "Sacred places containing ancient burial sites, places of prayer and other significant cultural artifacts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe were destroyed Saturday by Energy Transfer Partners.

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier is calling on all members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to avoid traveling to or doing business in the Mandan-Bismarck area until this crisis is resolved. "I fear for my people's safety, the Chairman said in a press release.

Attorneys for Energy Transfer Partners denied that workers destroyed any cultural sites, but evidence filed by the Plaintiffs and the Sioux Nation indicate otherwise.

Testimony in support of the Temporary Restraining Order against DALP interests filed by Tim Mentz reads, in part:

The elders say that reburying can help deal with the loss and hurt of disturbing these graves. These are people whose graves are in some cases known about and who have family connections in Cannon Ball. We want an opportunity to rebury our relatives. We normally are given this opportunity if gravesites are disturbed.

I do not believe that the timing of this construction was an accident or coincidence. Based on my observations, the nearest area of construction in the right of way west of Highway 1806 is around 20 miles away. It appears that DAPL drove the bulldozers approximately 20 miles of uncleared right of way to access the precise area that we surveyed and described in my declaration. The work started very early in the morning and they were accompanied by private security with dogs and with a helicopter overhead, indicating that the work was planned with care and that controversy was expected.

Immediately recognizing the need to stop this process, on August 4, 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe along with attorneys from Earth Justice filed a motion with supporting documents for a preliminary injunction against the DAPL. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) issued the initial permitting for the pipeline. Federal Judge James E. Boasberg rejected the motion to ignore the injunction request and ordered a status conference on September 14, leaving room for discussion after his ruling September 9.