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US authorities deny permit for Dakota Access pipeline, in victory for Native tribes

The US Army Corps of Engineers has rejected an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying it could contaminate water supplies. The move is seen as a victory for Native Americans and activists protesting the project.

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North Dakota pipeline: a victory for Native Americans

The United States Army Corps of Engineers has refused to grant an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline, which was originally slated to run under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir where construction has been halted due to protests.

"The Army will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record," a statement from the US Army said Sunday.

The decision is seen as a victory for Native Americans and climate activists, who claim the pipeline would threaten a local water source and damage sacred land.

The corps has said it will investigate the environmental impact of the 1,172-mile (1,885-kilometer) pipeline that would stretch across the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois and is expected to cost $3.8 billion (3.6 billion euros).

"The corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes," said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the local tribe Standing Rock Sioux, in a statement.

"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," said Jo-Ellen Darcy, the US Army's assistant secretary for civil works. 

US Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said the decision "underscores that tribal rights…are essential components of the analysis" for the environmental impact.

'Serious mistake'

Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, which owns the Dakota Access Pipeline, did not immediately comment after the decision.

However, supporters of the pipeline construction, including North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple, were not pleased with the announcement. Dalrymple called the decision a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation" of several hundred protesters who are camped out in the frigid winter weather. North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer said the decision sent "a very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the US.

The federal government has ordered protesters to leave the main encampment, which is on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Protesters plan to hold their ground, and authorities have said they will not remove protesters by force.

kbd/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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