Federal officials announced on Sunday that they would not approve permits for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a dammed section of the Missouri River that tribes say sits near sacred burial sites.
The decision is a victory for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protesters camped near the construction site who have opposed the project because they said would it threaten a water source and cultural sites. Federal officials had given the protesters until tomorrow to leave a campsite near the construction site.
In a statement on Sunday, the Department of the Army’s assistant secretary for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said that the decision was based on a need to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.
“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Ms. Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
The consideration of alternative routes “would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis,” Ms Darcy said in a statement.
The Obama administration had blocked construction of that section since September, and in November President Obama, revealed that the Army Corps of Engineers was considering an alternative route for the project.
Dave Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, expressed gratitude for “the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.”
Tribal officials had criticized the route because of the potential damage to the tribe’s drinking water and that it would disrupt sacred lands.
The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, has said that it was unwilling to reroute the project.