BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Two Native American tribes who are suing to stop the Dakota Access pipeline have asked a judge to head off the imminent flow of oil while they appeal his decision allowing the pipeline’s construction to be completed.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg last week rejected the request of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes to stop construction of the final segment of the pipeline under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota from which the tribes get their water. The pipeline’s developer, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, expects to have the work done and the pipeline filled with oil as early as this week.
The tribes maintain that an oil pipeline under the lake they consider sacred violates their right to practice their religion, which relies on clean water. In his decision last week, Boasberg said the tribes didn’t raise the religion argument in a timely fashion and he questioned its merits.
Cheyenne River attorney Nicole Ducheneaux on Friday appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. She also asked Boasberg to “prevent the flow of oil through the Dakota Access pipeline” until the appeal is resolved.
“Should construction continue during the appeals process, the last opportunity for Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to defend its tribal members’ free exercise of religion will be lost,” Ducheneaux wrote.
Boasberg on Monday gave ETP and the Army Corps of Engineers until Tuesday to file their responses to the request. The Corps is a defendant in the lawsuit because it manages the Missouri River system and authorized the Lake Oahe work last month at the urging of President Donald Trump.
Government attorneys didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal case.
The 1,200-mile pipeline would transport oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.