Tribes fighting pipeline drop appeal but battle continuesMay 18, 2017 5:46pm

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — American Indian tribes who are still fighting the Dakota Access oil pipeline in court have dropped an appeal of a federal judge's decision that allowed final construction to proceed on the project that is just two weeks from operating commercially.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in early March refused to stop completion of the pipeline based on the claims of Sioux tribes that it threatens water they consider sacred. The Cheyenne River Sioux appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which refused to grant an emergency order stopping oil from flowing while the appeal was decided.

Developer Energy Transfer Partners finished construction on the pipeline and began filling it with oil in late March. Spokeswoman Vicki Granado confirmed this week that the line fill process has been completed.

"Our commercial operations begin June 1, whereby we will begin transporting crude per our contracts with shippers," she said.

With oil already in the line, Cheyenne River attorneys in late April submitted a motion to voluntarily dismiss their claim in the appeals court, and the motion was granted Monday.

The pipeline will move North Dakota oil 1,200 miles through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois. ETP maintains the pipeline is safe, but the Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, Yankton and Oglala Sioux tribes in the Dakotas fear environmental harm. They're continuing to fight the project in federal court in Washington, D.C., hoping to convince Boasberg to shut down the pipeline.

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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