Company agrees to temporarily halt some North Dakota pipeline work
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By Julia Harte
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Native American tribal chairman said his people were "disappointed" that a company agreed on Tuesday to temporarily halt construction of an oil pipeline only in some but not all parts of North Dakota where the tribe says it has sacred sites.
After violent clashes over the weekend between protesters and security officers near the construction site, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a neighboring Native American tribe had asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sunday for a temporary restraining order against Dakota Access, the company building the pipeline.
U.S. Judge James Boasberg said on Tuesday he had granted in part and denied in part the temporary restraining order, and that he would decide by Friday whether to grant the tribes' larger challenge to the pipeline, which would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw permits for the project.
A group of firms led by Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE: ETP) is building the 1,100-mile (1,770-km) pipeline. The $3.7 billion project would be the first to bring crude oil from Bakken shale, a vast oil formation in North Dakota, directly to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said in a statement the ruling puts the tribe's "sacred places at further risk of ruin and desecration."
Dakota Access agreed to halt activity until Friday in an area representing about half the total space requested in the tribes' temporary restraining order.
It did not include ancient burial and prayer sites recently discovered by a historic preservation officer for the tribe, Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux, told a news conference on Tuesday.
Hasselman said the tribe would now wait for Boasberg's decision on Friday and pursue appeals if the judge rules against the tribe.
Dakota Access accused the Standing Rock Sioux during Tuesday's hearing of inciting the pipeline's opponents to break the law. The company's lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment after the ruling.
Saturday's protests were triggered, the tribes said, when the pipeline company used bulldozers to destroy sacred tribal sites whose locations had been identified in court documents filed on Friday.
Tomas Alejo, who participated in Saturday's demonstrations, said in an interview that the security officers had formed a "barricade" with guard dogs to prevent protesters from accessing the bulldozers, and that the dogs bit children and tribal elders.
Dakota Access said in its reply to the requested restraining order that the protesters "stampeded" the construction area and attacked the dogs and security officers with makeshift weapons, and that the bulldozers did not destroy important historical sites.
(Reporting by Julia Harte and Mohammad Zargham in Washington; Editing by Frances Kerry and Matthew Lewis)
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