The US government has temporarily halted the construction of a controversial oil pipeline in North Dakota, which had angered Native Americans.
The decision came after a US federal judge had ruled that the construction of Energy Transfer Partners’ pipeline should continue, rejecting a request by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to halt the work.
In addition to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, nearly 100 more tribes from across the US, landowners and environmental activists have been voicing opposition to the project.
On September 3, several Native Americans clashed with security officers near the construction site after bulldozers had destroyed sacred tribal sites.
There are fears that the project could endanger drinking water for thousands of tribal members and millions more downstream.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, which owns some of the land where the pipeline was planned to be constructed and has been involved in the permitting process, said it would not allow the continuation of the process on its property until officials re-examined the Native American tribe’s concerns about the pipeline as well as previous projects.
However, Judge James Boasberg said Friday that the tribe had not adequately shown the project would destroy "sites of cultural and historical significance," ruling that the project should not be stopped.
Shortly after the ruling, the US Departments of Justice, Army and Interior issued a joint statement, announcing that the construction would not be allowed to continue.
"This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects," the statement read.
"The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions" on the site, it added.
"In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe."
The 1,100-mile (1,770-km) pipeline is a $3.7-billion project which would be the first to transport crude oil from Bakken shale, a vast oil formation in North Dakota, to refineries in the US Gulf Coast.