The Standing Rock Sioux tribe won a reprieve after the Monday decision by a U.S. District Court judge to suspend the Dakota Access pipeline pending further environmental review. The highly controversial pipeline has operated for three years. Judge James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered both sides to submit briefs on whether the pipeline should continue operations.

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In March, Boasberg ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Environmental Policy Act when it permitted the pipeline and failed to acknowledge the devastating consequences of potential oil spills in the area.

Related: Dakota Access Pipeline placed under environmental review

The 1,172-mile pipeline transports oil underground from North Dakota to Illinois, passing through South Dakota and Iowa on its way. Standing Rock Reservation straddles the Dakotas’ state line and draws its water from the Missouri River. The tribe alleges the pipeline, which crosses beneath the river, pollutes their water. Energy Transfer, a Texas-based gas and oil company that owns the biggest share in the project, disagrees and claims the pipeline is safe.

The $3.8 billion pipeline brought trouble from the start. During its construction in 2016-2017, tribal members began a protest campaign that drew international support. Activists from around the country stood with Standing Rock. Some clashes at the site grew violent, with police and security officers using attack dogs, water cannons and military equipment to clear protesters and their encampments.

a group of four people stand in front of a crowd and hold drums, with a sign in the background reading "Stand with Standing Rock"

Political action persisted, with David Archambault II, then-Chairman for Standing Rock, addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in September 2016. Senator and former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders also supported the protests, and then-President Barack Obama spoke with tribal leaders. 

In December 2016, before leaving office, the Obama administration ordered a full environmental review of the project, including analysis of the tribe’s treaty rights, and denied permits allowing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River. President Donald Trump signed an executive order expediting construction during his first week in office.

But for now, the tribal water supply is safe. “Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” Mike Faith, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman, said in a statement. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

+ The Guardian

Via Earth Justice

Images via Indrid Cold, Fibonacci Blue and John Duffy