WASHINGTON A U.S. federal judge on Tuesday denied a request by a Native American tribe for an emergency injunction to prevent oil from flowing through part of the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying such a move would be against the public interest.
The ruling, issued in court documents ahead of plans to start pumping oil through the pipeline next week, follows months of demonstrations in a remote part of North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe demonstrated in an attempt to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing upstream from their reservation.
Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued his decision denying the request by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, saying the court "acknowledges that 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."
The pipeline is nearing completion after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last month smoothing the path for construction. He also cleared the way for the Keystone XL project that would pipe Canadian crude into the United States.
The Standing Rock Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux last week lost a legal bid to halt construction of the last link of the pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, which they say threatens tribal lands. The pipeline will be ready to carry oil by April 1.
Among the Republican Trump's first acts in office was to sign an executive order that reversed a decision by the previous administration of Democratic President Barack Obama to delay approval of the Dakota pipeline, a $3.8 billion project by Energy Transfer Partners LP (ETP.N).
Boasberg noted in his decision that any ruling to allow the tribe's request for an injunction preventing oil from flowing through the pipeline would likely be overturned on appeal.
Thousands of Native American demonstrators and their supporters marched to the White House last Friday to voice outrage at Trump's decision.
(Reporting by David Gaffen; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by G Crosse and Peter Cooney)