WASHINGTON Oct 5 Three federal appeals judges
in Washington, D.C., heard arguments on Wednesday over whether
to stop work on a crude oil pipeline in parts of North Dakota
where the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes say the project
will desecrate sacred land.
The judges are not expected to rule for months. In
September, they ordered the group of firms building the
pipeline, led by Energy Transfer Partners LP, to pause
construction on the disputed section of the route while they
consider the tribes' request that the U.S. government withdraw
permits for the project.
Opponents of the 1,100 mile (1,770 km), $3.7 billion
pipeline celebrated in September when legal challenges and
violent clashes between protesters and security guards prompted
the administration of President Barack Obama to ask the company
to stop work on the disputed land while the government revisited
its previous decisions about the project.
Celebrities including actor Susan Sarandon and Green Party
U.S. presidential candidate Jill Stein have also joined protests
against the pipeline.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also deciding whether to
grant an easement to build under a lake on the Missouri River.
Energy Transfer Partners needs that final permission in order to
complete the pipeline, which is currently due for delivery on
Jan. 1, 2017, according to court records.
An attorney for the pipeline company said under questioning
from the judges at Wednesday's hearing that if the court allowed
it, the company would continue building up to the lake's edge
even before the easement decision, because each extra month of
delay will cost the company more than $80 million.
Attorneys for the pipeline company declined to comment after
Jan Hasselman, the attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux,
told reporters outside the courthouse after the hearing that the
appeal "should take three or four months" to resolve.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said
after the hearing that 135 anti-pipeline demonstrators have been
arrested so far, and that law enforcement officers are
"heightening the danger" by using anti-riot gear.
In late September, there was no visible evidence that
construction was ongoing at the pipeline site near the Missouri
River, although parts of the construction site are on private
land and therefore inaccessible.
(Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Cannon Ball, N.D.;
Editing by Matthew Lewis)