BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The disputed four-state Dakota Access pipeline could be moving oil in as little as a month, though opponents are promising to continue fighting the project. Here's a look at recent developments, and what's to come:
Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners on Feb. 8 received approval from the Army to lay pipe under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota — the last remaining section of the 1,200-mile pipeline that would move North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois. Drilling work at Lake Oahe began immediately. The development was prompted by pro-energy President Donald Trump, who pushed the Army to advance construction.
ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado initially said the pipeline would be operational within three months. However, company lawyer David Debold on Monday suggested it could be ready for oil in as little as 30 days. Granado credited the efficiency of the company's equipment and crews, but didn't elaborate.
The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux say the $3.8 billion pipeline threatens their drinking water, cultural sites and ability to practice their religion, which depends on pure water. They asked U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to temporarily halt construction at Lake Oahe until their legal challenges are resolved.
Boasberg on Monday refused, though he scheduled a Feb. 27 hearing on a request by Cheyenne River to force the Army to withdraw its permission for the lake crossing. Standing Rock filed its own motion Tuesday asking that the permission be revoked.
The Oglala and Yankton Sioux tribes in South Dakota have filed similar legal challenges, the Yankton tribe in September and the Oglala Sioux on Saturday.
In a separate lawsuit, pipeline opponents suing police for allegedly using excessive force are appealing a federal judge's recent ruling allowing authorities to continue using tactics such as tear gas and rubber bullets for crowd dispersal.
Law enforcement records show that such tactics haven't been used since Jan. 19, at a blockaded highway bridge in the area of a protest encampment on federal land in southern North Dakota.
The camp has at times housed thousands of protesters who have often clashed with police. It's now home to only a few hundred people and is being cleaned up in advance of spring flooding and a Feb. 22 closing date set by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Many protesters don't plan to leave the area. Cheyenne River Chairman Harold Frazier says that tribe is leasing about 25 acres of land on the Standing Rock Reservation for camps. American Indian activist Chase Iron Eyes also is encouraging a continued presence in the area.
The bridge on U.S. Highway 1806 has been closed since being damaged by fires Oct. 28. Officials have been working in recent weeks to reopen it in the interest of easing tensions.
Guardrail repairs were completed Friday and temporary asphalt patching was finished Monday, at a total cost of about $10,000, according to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jamie Olson. However, it won't be reopened until authorities determine tensions have eased enough to warrant it, said Morton County sheriff's spokesman Rob Keller.
The Transportation Department on Monday did reopen eight miles of an 18-mile closed stretch of the highway, "allowing farmers, ranchers, people who have business down there to have more freedom of travel," Keller said.
Law enforcement continues to maintain a heavy presence in the area despite the fading of protests.
New figures from the state show the law enforcement response over the past half-year has involved officers from 10 states, resulted in 705 arrests and cost taxpayers $33 million — $25 million for officer pay, $3.6 million for travel and lodging, and $4.3 million for equipment and supplies.
The data show that 92 percent of the 660 people who have been arrested are not from North Dakota.
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