BISMARCK — A federal judge cleared the way on Friday for a disputed oil pipeline to be laid just north of a Native American reservation in North Dakota.
But moments after the ruling came down, the United States government issued a statement saying it would, for the time being, not allow the pipeline to be built underneath a dammed section of the Missouri River that has become a focal point of the pipeline dispute. The statement, from the Justice and Interior Departments and the Army, urged the pipeline company to pause construction.
The ruling disappointed hundreds of environmental activists and tribal members who have come from across the country to a protest camp in the rolling Dakota prairie.
The ruling by Judge James E. Boasberg in Washington rejected efforts by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to halt construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. A lawyer for the tribe says the ruling will be appealed.
Although the $3.7 billion pipeline would not cross the reservation on its 1,170-mile path across four states, it would skirt the reservation’s northern boundary and run through what tribal officials say are ancestral lands. They say the pipeline would disrupt or destroy cultural and burial sites and could contaminate their water if it breaks or leaks as it crosses under a dammed section of the Missouri River.
Many people at the protest camp and leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe say they are protesting peacefully, but the events took a violent turn last weekend after a group of protesters tore down a fence and rushed contractors who had been digging up earth to lay the pipeline.
The Morton County sheriff said the workers were surrounded, kicked and hit with sticks. Tribal leaders blamed the company behind the pipeline for exacerbating tensions by hiring security guards who brought guard dogs to the construction site. Tribal officials said six demonstrators had been bitten.
Sheriff’s officers in Morton County and other North Dakota law-enforcement agencies have increased their patrols and presence in the past two days.