Oil is expected to flow through a disputed section of the Dakota Access Pipeline for the first time next week after a federal judge on Tuesday rejected a request by opponents to temporarily stop its use.
Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Tuesday against arguments from the Cheyenne River Sioux that a section of the pipeline in North Dakota would interfere with their freedom of religion. The tribe had claimed that the presence of the oil line under Lake Oahe would defile water they use for sacred purposes.
“The Tribe is likely to suffer irreparable harm to its members’ religious exercise if oil is introduced into the pipeline, but Dakota Access would also be substantially harmed by an injunction, given the financial and logistical injuries that would ensue,” Boasberg wrote.
The judge’s order leaves lead developer Energy Transfer Partners in a position to begin using the 1,172-mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois when construction is complete. Company lawyers said in a court filing Monday that they expect oil to reach this stretch between March 20 and 22, assuming that final tests go well.
The legal dispute over the pipeline, however, is not over. The Standing Rock Sioux, whose reservation is also near this portion of the project, have separate arguments pending in this case. They claim that the pipeline violates treaty rights established in the mid-1800s and that the Army of Corps of Engineers improperly evaluated the pipeline’s environmental impact on their water source.
Rulings on those motions are expected in April, according to a spokeswoman for tribal Chairman Dave Archambault.
Energy Transfer Partners officials did not respond to The Huffington Post’s requests for comment.