A federal judge has denied a last-minute plea to stop the Dakota Access pipeline, allowing the $3.8 billion oil pipeline to begin operating as early as next week.
U.S. District Judge James A. Boasberg ruled Tuesday that the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux are unlikely to prevail on the merits of their challenge to his March 7 decision, saying the court “believes that Plaintiff does not have a strong case on appeal.”
A status report filed Monday by Dakota Access LLC said oil is expected to start flowing through the North Dakota section of the 1,172-mile, four-state pipeline sometime from Monday through Wednesday, “depending upon the success of the testing.”
Another status report is expected to be filed with the court on Monday.
The tribes had asked for a preliminary injunction to stop the pipeline on religious grounds, arguing that flowing oil underneath Lake Oahe would desecrate the water, which is sacred to the tribes, and fulfill the “black snake prophecy.”
Last week, however, the judge pointed out that a natural gas pipeline already runs under Lake Oahe and that other oil pipelines cross the Missouri River upstream from the lake, which is man-made and only 60 years old.
“As to the remaining factors, 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,” Judge Boasberg said in his Tuesday opinion.