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Judge Rules In Favor Of Standing Rock Sioux

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe secured its first court victory on Wednesday, June 14 when a federal judge ruled that the United States Army Corps of Engineers did not adequately study the potential environmental impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline when they initially approved the project’s construction.

In a 91-page decision, D.C. District Court Judge James Boasberg highlighted the Army Corps’ study of the impact an oil spill could have on the hunting rights, fishing rights and environmental justice as areas noticeably lacking, and ordered it to put together a new report on these risks.

However, the judge did not order the pipeline to be shut off before the new environmental study is completed, something that commonly occurs when federal permits are found to be lacking. Judge Boasberg instead ordered both side’s attorneys to appear before him in order to make new arguments about whether or not the pipeline should be allowed to continue its operations.

While the continued operation of the pipeline means that the area remains at risk of spills, the fact that this ruling may create new precedents around treaty rights and environmental justice that could prove beneficial, if not crucial, to future legal battles.

“This is a a very significant victory and vindication of the tribe’s opinion,” said Jan Hasselman to The Atlantic, the lead attorney for the case and an employee of Earthjustice, an environmental-advocacy group that represented the Standing Rock Sioux. “The court slices things pretty thin, but there were three major areas that he found deficient, and they’re not insignificant. They’re central to the problems that we’ve been highlighting the whole time.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s legal fight is far from over, and despite this win, ultimate victory remains a longshot. In an interview with The Atlantic earlier this month, the chairman of the tribe David Archambault III stated that while he is not optimistic about their chances, he feels like it’s his duty to keep fucking until the end.

“When we first entered into this, we understood the history, we knew the facts, we knew the laws,” he said. “We still have to bring it all up. Because just because [the situation] is legally right, it’s morally and ethically wrong. What happened at Standing Rock is a movement, and you don’t see the benefits of a movement until way later.”

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