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National Guard on alert; Dakota Access Pipeline decision expected

Posted at 12:19 PM, Sep 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 12:19:55-04

A federal judge’s decision Friday could fuel heightened tensions in the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The ruling on a Native American tribe’s request for a temporary restraining order on construction comes one day after Gov. Jack Dalrymple activated the state National Guard “in the event they are needed to support law enforcement response efforts,” according to a National Guard spokesman.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed an emergency motion Sunday asking the court “to prevent further destruction of the tribe’s sacred sites by Dakota Access Pipeline.”

The $3.7 billion project, which would span four states, has led to heated, sometimes violent protests.

Proponents say the project could be an economic boon for the region and potentially change the landscape of the US crude oil supply.

Those seeking to halt construction warn of an environmental disaster that would destroy sacred Native American sites.

The pipeline’s developer, Energy Transfer Partners, has predicted the project would help the United States become less dependent on importing oil from unstable regions of the world.

The tribe wants to halt further construction on an area two miles west of North Dakota Highway 1806, near Lake Oahe, until the judge’s ruling.

The plaintiffs claim the tribe was not properly consulted before the US Army Corps of Engineers approved the pipeline project, which would run from North Dakota to South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

A US district court judge is expected to make a decision by Friday.

The Army Corps of Engineers has declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

On Thursday, a state National Guard statement said the governor had asked it “to support law enforcement and augment public safety efforts, in light of recent activity with the Dakota Access Pipeline protest.”

“The Guard members will serve in administrative capacities and assist in providing security at traffic information points,” the statement said. “The Guardsmen will not be going to the actual protest site. The governor also placed additional Guardsmen on standby alert in the event they are needed to support law enforcement response efforts.”

Thousands of people from more than 200 Native American tribes have supported the Standing Rock Sioux’s efforts to protect their lands, waters and sacred sites during construction of the pipeline, according to the tribe.

If completed, the 1,172-mile pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois.

Energy Transfer said the pipeline would bring an estimated $156 million in sales and income taxes to state and local governments. It would also add 8,000 to 12,000 construction jobs, the developer said.

But about 30 environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, have slammed the pipeline project, calling it “yet another example of an oil pipeline project being permitted without public engagement or sufficient environmental review.”‘

Protesters are also worried that digging the pipeline under the Missouri River could affect the drinking water supply if the pipeline breaks.

Protests turned violent over the weekend, with some demonstrators breaking down a wire fence and trespassing onto a construction area, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said.

“Protesters physically assaulted private security officers hired by Dakota Access Pipeline. The security officers were hit and jabbed with fence posts and flagpoles,” the sheriff’s department said. “According to several reports from security officers, knives were pulled on them or they witnessed protestors with large knives.”

The sheriff’s department also said two guard dogs were injured.

But protesters disputed that account, CNN affiliate KFYR said. Demonstrators said the guards used pepper spray and tear gas on the activists, and some protesters were injured by the guards’ dogs.