National Guard put on alert as protesters await decision on North Dakota pipeline


The governor of North Dakota has activated the state’s National Guard ahead of a U.S. District judge’s decision Friday morning that could inflame protesters who have been gathered here for weeks in an effort to block a pipeline project.

An encampment stretching a half-mile amid pastureland along a lonely state highway is home to a weeks-long protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, which could carry more than 400,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the Bakken region of western North Dakota across South Dakota and Iowa to connect with an existing pipeline in Illinois.

The National Guard is so far limited to serving as an imposing, uniformed presence at what it called “traffic information points,” but it could be put to more active duty if needed, a news release said.


“The Guardsmen will not be going to the actual protest site,” the North Dakota National Guard said Thursday afternoon. “The governor also placed additional Guardsmen on standby alert in the event they are needed to support law enforcement response efforts.”

On Thursday afternoon, a cluster of national guardsmen stood near a group of Morton County sheriff’s deputies at concrete barricades located midway between Bismarck, N.D., and the protesters. Police asked travelers about their destinations but did not appear to be blocking entry or forcing vehicles to return to Bismarck.

Lawyers from the environmental group Earthjustice are representing the Standing Rock Sioux in a legal effort to stop construction of the pipeline. They contend that the Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act when it approved the project and that a more stringent environmental review should be done.

Tribal leaders say the pipeline and its construction would damage ancestral sites of the Standing Rock Sioux and put the tribe’s water supply at risk.

The Army Corps of Engineers argued in court in Washington this week that the Standing Rock Sioux and other parties had ample time to express concerns during a review process and that the pipeline was properly approved. Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas company building the pipeline, says it will increase the nation’s energy independence and that it is a safer means of transport than rail.

U.S. District judge James A. Boasberg said this week that he will rule no later than Friday on a request by the Standing Rock Sioux to stop construction and reconsider permits the project has received.



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