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Huge Victory: Court Finds Approval of Dakota Access Pipeline Violated the Law

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Flags fly at the Oceti Sakowin Camp in North Dakota. Lucas Zhao / CC BY-NC 2.0

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration must conduct additional environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline, handing a limited victory to Native American tribes fighting the administration's decision to move forward with the project.

In an extensive opinion, Washington, DC District Court Judge James Boasberg sided with the tribes by agreeing the Army Corps of Engineers "did not consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, human rights, or environmental justice."


"This decision marks an important turning point," said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman. "Until now, the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump administration—prompting a well-deserved global outcry. The federal courts have stepped in where our political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities."

Boasberg did not order a shutdown of operations on the pipeline, which began pumping oil early this month. The tribes and pipeline owner Energy Transfer Partners are ordered to appear in court next week to decide next legal steps, and the tribes are expected to argue for a full shutdown of pipeline operations.

Dallas Goldtooth, national Keep It In the Ground organizer for Indigenous Environmental Network, had this to say about the ruling:

"This is a huge victory for the tribal nations of the Oceti Sakowin, Water Protectors around the world and for the Indigenous leaders who led organizing efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

"We're ecstatic with the court's decision, and applaud the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne Sioux for continuing to hold the line and take the fight against the Trump administration and the Dakota Access Pipeline to the nation's courts. We hope this decision leads to the stoppage of oil flowing in the Bakken crude oil pipeline as a permanent remedy to protecting the drinking water of the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux Nations.

"Since the 1990s, our organization has been working to ensure the United States recognizes the need for environmental justice and for meaningful participation by Indigenous communities in permitting processes that will affect our sacred lands, inherent rights and access to clean water. We're seeing those efforts bear fruit, and now our movement has dealt a major blow to big oil.

"Despite underhanded, brutal tactics by Energy Transfer Partners to suppress Indigenous peoples, our movement will not be stopped. We will continue to support any and all efforts to divest from fossil fuels and stop the Dakota Access Pipeline once and for all."

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