Judge grants temporarily stoppage on pipeline work in North Dakota

A federal judge has granted the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s request to temporarily stop work on some, but not all of a portion of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline to safeguard cultural sites in North Dakota.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said Tuesday that work will temporarily stop between State Highway 1806 and 20 miles east of Lake Oahe, but that work will continue west of the highway because he believes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lacks jurisdiction on private land.

The request granted by Boasberg is different than the tribe’s broader push that challenges federal regulators’ decision to grant permits to the operators of the four-state pipeline. Boasberg said he expects to issue a full opinion on that lawsuit by the end of Friday.

Attorneys for Energy Transfer Partners filed court documents Tuesday morning denying that workers have destroyed any cultural sites.

An attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says it is grateful that work will be temporarily stopped.

The tribe requested the stoppage after a weekend confrontation between protesters and construction workers near Lake Oahe due to workers allegedly bulldozing sites that attorney Jan Hasselman said were “of great historic and cultural significance to the tribe.”

Hasselman said Tuesday that the tribe was “disappointed that some of the important sacred sites that we had found and provided evidence for will not be protected.”

Boasberg said he’ll issue a decision by the end of Friday on the tribe’s broader push that challenges federal regulators’ decision to grant permits.

Late Tuesday afternoon, authorities say law enforcement officers responding to protesters at a Dakota Access Pipeline construction area on private property in North Dakota pulled back because they determined it wasn’t safe to respond.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier says the primary goal is public safety, including for law enforcement. Authorities also are looking into a report of a drone flying overhead.

Authorities say a group of between 150 and 200 protesters, including some carrying hatchets and knives, gathered at the construction area Tuesday morning. Officials say two protesters were secured to heavy equipment.

No pipeline workers were at the site, and no arrests have been made.