(Adds Trump position, expert comment)
By Ernest Scheyder and Terray Sylvester
CANNON BALL, N.D. Dec 5 Thousands of protesters
in North Dakota celebrated after the federal government ruled
against a controversial pipeline project on Sunday, even though
many recognized that the fight is likely to continue into next
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it rejected an
application to allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to tunnel under
Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.
The decision came after months of protests from Native
Americans and climate activists, who argued that the 1,172-mile
(1,885-km) Dakota Access Pipeline would damage sacred lands and
could contaminate the tribe's water source.
The mood has been upbeat since the rejection was announced
on Sunday afternoon at the Oceti Sakowin camp in Cannon Ball,
North Dakota. Activists were seen hugging and letting out war
cries in response to the news.
Still, with the incoming administration of President-elect
Donald Trump supportive of the project, activists worried a
reversal of the decision could be in the offing.
"This is a temporary celebration. I think this is just a
rest," said Charlotte Bad Cob, 30, from the Pine Ridge
Reservation in South Dakota. "With a new government it could
turn and we could be at it again."
The camp's numbers have swelled in recent days, as hundreds
of U.S. veterans have flocked to North Dakota in support of the
protesters. Some of those in a long line of traffic along
Highway 1806 heading into the camp hollered and honked their
horns after the news was announced.
The pipeline, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners
LP, is complete except for a one-mile segment to run
under Lake Oahe. That stretch required an easement from federal
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will analyze
possible alternate routes, although any other route is also
likely to cross the Missouri River.
FIGHT MAY BE A 'LONG HAUL'
Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II, in a statement,
said he hoped ETP, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and
Trump would respect the decision.
"When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian
Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work
together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted
considerations of tribes," he said.
Trump has yet to react to Sunday's decision. He could direct
authorities to approve the line, even if before he takes over
from Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20 federal
authorities will be studying alternative routes.
Tom Goldtooth, a Lakota from Minnesota, and a co-founder of
Indigenous Environmental Network, said he expects Trump to try
to reverse the decision.
"I think we're going to be in this for the long haul. That's
what my fear is," he said.
Energy Transfer said late Sunday they do not intend to
reroute the line, calling the Obama Administration's decision a
In November, ETP moved equipment to the edge of the Missouri
River to prepare for drilling, and later asked a federal court
to disregard the Army Corps, and declare that the company could
finish the line. That ruling is still pending.
Several veterans recently arrived in camp told Reuters they
thought Sunday's decision, which came just as Oceti Sakowin has
seen an influx of service members, was a tactic to convince
protesters to leave.
"That drill is still on the drill pad. Until that's gone,
this is not over," said Matthew Crane, 32, from Buffalo, who
arrived with a contingent of veterans last week.
(Writing by David Gaffen; Editing by Tom Hogue)