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Tribe Reportedly Files Legal Challenge To Dakota Access Pipeline

A sign is seen at an encampment set up near Cannon Ball, N.D., Wednesday, where opponents are protesting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.
James MacPherson
A sign is seen at an encampment set up near Cannon Ball, N.D., Wednesday, where opponents are protesting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

With the Dakota Access Pipeline now cleared to cross under a reservoir in the Missouri River, one of the two Native American tribes fighting the pipeline has filed a legal challenge to the plan, according to the Associated Press.

The Cheyenne River Sioux "filed a legal challenge in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday," the AP says. Along with the Standing Rock Sioux, the tribe has taken a stand against the pipeline on the grounds that it poses a risk to their water supply and would infringe on sacred land.

The move comes one day after Energy Transfer Partners, the builders of the pipeline, formally received an easement from the Army Corps of Engineers. That prompted the company to start drilling beneath Lake Oahe, the reservoir in the heart of the disputed area.

ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado says the company expects to complete work in that portion of the pipeline within two months — and that it could be in service within three months. The pipeline consists of some 1,172 miles of 30-inch diameter pipe that will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois.

As NPR's Rebecca Hersher reported this week, the Army's public statements about the pipeline changed markedly after President Trump was inaugurated:

"In a Jan. 18 notice published in the Federal Register the Army had said it would accept public comments on the project through Feb. 20, still nearly two weeks away.

"On Jan. 24, President Trump signed a memorandum encouraging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the review and approval process, and last week the Army said that it had been directed to expedite its review of the route."

After the Army Corps of Engineers granted the easement, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe's chairman, Harold Frazier, issued a statement that promised to carry on the legal fight.

"It is clear that the coyotes which have been hiding in the shadows are taking advantage of this full lunacy," Frazier wrote. "We will have to renew our fight and spend more of our precious resources resisting this onslaught yet again."

The heated dispute over the pipeline has resulted in stand-offs at its proposed path — along with a campaign calling for people and public entities to cut ties with the banks that are funding the pipeline project. As we reported Wednesday, that campaign led two cities — Seattle, Wash., and Davis, Calif. — to pull more than $3 billion in annual business from Wells Fargo.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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