A federal judge won't decide until later this year whether to shut down the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline while federal officials conduct a more thorough environmental review.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Wednesday approved a schedule under which both sides in a lawsuit over the pipeline will submit written arguments on the matter in July and August.
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"We would expect a decision sometime after that, probably September," said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux, which filed the lawsuit last summer that was later joined by three other Sioux tribes.
The Standing Rock tribe sued because it believes the $3.8 billion pipeline built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners threatens cultural sites and its water supply. The company disputes that and maintains the pipeline is safe.
The long-delayed project was finished earlier this year after President Donald Trump took office and called for its completion. On June 1, the pipeline began moving North Dakota oil to a distribution point in Illinois, from which it's shipped to the Gulf Coast.
But Boasberg last week ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the pipeline, didn't adequately consider how an oil spill might affect the tribe. He ordered the agency to reconsider parts of its environmental analysis.
About 50 anti-pipeline protesters rallied outside the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., during Wednesday's hearing. They sang, chanted, held signs with messages such as "water is life" and gave speeches in support of the tribe.
"If that (pipeline) spills, it means game over," said the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus activist group. "It means they can't wash, they can't clean, they can't feed their children. It means their way of life ends."
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