Judge denies tribes’ motion seeking to temporarily halt Dakota Access pipeline

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge in Washington, D.C., denied a last-ditch effort by the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes to halt the flow of oil through the Dakota Access pipeline on Tuesday.

The ruling -- by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg -- means oil could be moving through the controversial pipeline as soon as next week.

The tribes had asked the court for a preliminary injunction last month -- following the Trump administration’s decision to grant an easement for the pipeline’s final stretch, which runs under the bed of Lake Oahe, a federally regulated reservoir that is a source of drinking water for both tribes.

Chase Iron Eyes, the lead counsel of the Lakota People’s Law Project, called Tuesday's ruling “unjust and unacceptable.”

The pipeline had been stalled since last summer as tribal members and other protesters camped out near the construction zone and as the Obama administration deliberated over whether to grant the easement -- ultimately declining to do so -- in early December.

But on his second weekday in office, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum aimed at advancing approval of the pipeline, to the extent permitted by law. Two weeks later, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it was granting the easement and also canceling a more thorough environmental review of the project that had been initiated two days before Trump’s inauguration.

The Corps asserted that a previous environmental assessment -- completed last July with a finding that the pipeline would have no significant impact on the human environment -- was sufficient to grant the final permit for the pipeline to cross at Lake Oahe.

Yet the tribes have long maintained that earlier review paid little heed to their concerns and historical treaty rights.

“Once again, the federal government and the Army are treating the original inhabitants of this land as though we are less than human, as though our lives and lands are something to be ignored and discarded in the never-ending quest for profit,” Iron Eyes said in a statement.

The four-state Dakota Access pipeline is built entirely underground and is designed to transport crude oil more than 1,000 miles from the Bakken production area in North Dakota to an existing distribution center in southern Illinois. Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the pipeline, had argued against the preliminary injunction in court filings, asserting that it stood to lose tens of millions of dollars if the pipeline experienced any further delays.

Judge Boasberg's ruling Tuesday is a narrow one, focusing solely on a claim raised by the Cheyenne River Sioux under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The tribe argued that the mere existence of the pipeline at Lake Oahe would “desecrate those waters upon which the Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members rely for their most important religious practices.”

Energy Transfer Partners called those claims “a last-ditch desperation throw to the end zone” that “could not conceivably meet the required showing of irreparable harm needed to support a restraining order or preliminary injunction.”

The company informed the court earlier this week that construction is progressing and the pipe could be carrying oil by sometime next week.

“That’s obviously disappointing and troubling,” said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux. “It does not, however, change anything about the legal case.”

The tribes anticipate that court will rule in April or May on their broader challenges to the pipeline, which include allegations that the project was approved in violation of treaty rights and contrary to environmental and administrative law.

Boasberg has set an expedited scheduled to hear those arguments and has indicated that if he rules in favor of the tribes, it is possible the company could be ordered to stop the flow of oil.

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Passenger who forced Honolulu emergency landing tells FBI ‘we all have’ terroristic thoughts

Passenger who forced Honolulu emergency landing tells FBI 'we all have' terroristic thoughtsiStock/Thinkstock(HONOLULU) -- The Turkish national who forced the emergency landing of American Airlines flight 31 in Honolulu on Friday allegedly told FBI agents "we all have" terroristic ideas, and pantomimed shooting an agent during his interview, according to a criminal complaint filed in Hawaii on Monday.

En route from Los Angeles to Honolulu, 25-year-old Anil Uskanli alarmed passengers and crewmembers while acting "strange," forcing the pilot lock down the flight deck and prompting the U.S. Pacific Command to send two F-22 fighter jets to escort the aircraft into Hawaii.

F22's taking off from Honolulu to escort American Airlines flight 31 #Hawaii pic.twitter.com/8cauepQ7Yt

— Anthony Quintano 🌴 (@AnthonyQuintano) May 19, 2017

"We all have those ideas," he said when asked if he ever had terroristic thoughts.

According to the complaint, Uskanli boarded the plane without any luggage, carrying only a phone, laptop, charger, and miscellaneous items in his pockets.

Not long after he was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing at LAX after breaching a security door while under the influence, crew escorted him down the jet bridge in a wheelchair.

Once aboard the Airbus 321, he plopped into a seat in first class. At a flight attendant's repeated urging, Uskanli eventually moved to 35B, his assigned seat.

After the flight took off, Uskanli began repeatedly moving his laptop from the seatback pocket to the space under the seat, "uttering things and talking to himself," one passenger told FBI agents.

He then got up to use the lavatory, but failed to lock the door, the complaint adds. When another passenger attempted to enter the lavatory, Uskanli allegedly began "yelling and pounding on the walls."

After flight attendants escorted him back to his seat, they found what appeared to be cigarette pieces around the toilet.

A short time later, Uskanli "wrapped a blanket around his head, picked up his laptop," and shuffled towards the front of the aircraft.

A flight attendant used a beverage cart to block the aisle, but Uskanli shoved back, then set his laptop on the cart, triggering immediate alarm among the crew. The flight attendant was concerned following reports that terrorists are attempting to target aircraft with explosives concealed inside electronics, the complaint explains.

While an off-duty law enforcement officer steered Uskanli back to his seat, a flight attendant barricaded the laptop in the rear of the aircraft -- standard procedure for handling a possible explosive device. To further mitigate the impact of a potential in-flight bomb, the pilot descended to 5,000 feet, according to the complaint.

Uskanli was restrained with duct tape, witnesses say.

Upon landing, Uskanli was escorted off the flight by law enforcement, and bomb technicians and canine units seized the laptop and secured the plane. No explosives were found inside the laptop, authorities say.

Uskanli's urinalysis came back positive for benzodiazepine. Other field sobriety tests indicated he may have been high on stimulants or cannabis, according to the complaint.

During a post-incident interview with FBI agents, Uskanli "made a gun shape with his fingers and pretended to shoot,"simulated a ‘chopping motion’" at an agent's neck, and threatened to kill a female agent, according to the complaint.

Asked if he planned to hurt anyone, he told agents, "it depends on the day."

He was charged with interfering with a flight crew, and was scheduled to appear in court Monday.

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