US government seeks halt to North Dakota oil pipeline

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WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. government moved on Friday to halt a controversial oil pipeline project in North Dakota that has angered Native Americans, blocking construction on federal land and asking the company behind the project to suspend work nearby.

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The move came shortly after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington rejected a request from Native Americans for a court order to block the project. The government's action reflected the success of growing protests over the planned pipeline that have drawn international support and sparked a renewal of Native American activism.

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A natural gas flare on an oil well pad burns as the sun sets outside Watford City, North Dakota January 21, 2016. Persistent low oil prices have lead to slower business in much of North Dakota's Bakken oil fields. The collapse of U.S. oil and gas investment could have further to fall and Americans are showing signs they spend less of their windfall from lower gasoline prices than in the past, darkening the outlook for the U.S. economy. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
Pumpjacks and other infrastructure for producing oil dot fields outside of Watford City, North Dakota January 21, 2016. Over the last year, continually decreasing oil prices have forced a decrease in drilling and fracking new wells in North Dakota's Bakken shale play. The collapse of U.S. oil and gas investment could have further to fall and Americans are showing signs they spend less of their windfall from lower gasoline prices than in the past, darkening the outlook for the U.S. economy. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
Sunflowers stalks punctuate the snow in a field near dormant oil drilling rigs which have been stacked in Dickinson, North Dakota January 21, 2016. Over the last year, continually decreasing oil prices have forced a decrease in drilling and fracking new wells in North Dakota's Bakken shale play. The collapse of U.S. oil and gas investment could have further to fall and Americans are showing signs they spend less of their windfall from lower gasoline prices than in the past, darkening the outlook for the U.S. economy. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
Dead sunflowers stand in a field near dormant oil drilling rigs which have been stacked in Dickinson, North Dakota January 21, 2016. Over the last year, continually decreasing oil prices have forced a decrease in drilling and fracking new wells in North Dakota's Bakken shale play. The collapse of U.S. oil and gas investment could have further to fall and Americans are showing signs they spend less of their windfall from lower gasoline prices than in the past, darkening the outlook for the U.S. economy. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
A sign advertises homes for sale in a new housing development in Dickinson, North Dakota January 21, 2016. Low oil prices have forced rents down across North Dakota's Bakken oil field as many workers have lost their jobs or left the industry. The collapse of U.S. oil and gas investment could have further to fall and Americans are showing signs they spend less of their windfall from lower gasoline prices than in the past, darkening the outlook for the U.S. economy. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
A trailer park that was developed during the Bakken oil boom is seen in Williston, North Dakota April 30, 2016. To match Special Report USA-NORTHDAKOTA/BUST REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
A drive-through bakery and coffee shack waits for customers in Killdeer, North Dakota January 21, 2016. Over the last year, continually decreasing oil prices have forced a decrease in drilling and fracking new wells in North Dakota's Bakken shale play. The collapse of U.S. oil and gas investment could have further to fall and Americans are showing signs they spend less of their windfall from lower gasoline prices than in the past, darkening the outlook for the U.S. economy. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
Terra Green sits outside a staffing agency in Williston, North Dakota, January 13, 2015. Green arrived in Williston earlier that day in search of work in the Bakken oil field. Like so many before them, Terra Green, Jeff Williamson and Bazileo Hernandez came to North Dakota's oil country seeking a better life. They just came too late. Itinerant, unskilled workers could as recently as last spring show up in the No. 2 U.S. oil producing state and vie for salaries north of $100,000 per year with guaranteed housing. The steep drop in oil prices has changed that. After trying unsuccessfully for over a month to find work, the friends decided to leave Williston. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS COMMODITIES SOCIETY EMPLOYMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) PICTURE 7 OF 28 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY 'IN PURSUIT OF THE AMERICAN DREAM' SEARCH 'CULLEN DREAM' FOR ALL IMAGES
Terra Green waits to get registered with a Command Center staffing agency in hopes of finding work in Williston, North Dakota, January 13, 2015. She and her friends had arrived in Williston earlier that day to search for work in the Bakken oil field. Like so many before them, Terra Green, Jeff Williamson and Bazileo Hernandez came to North Dakota's oil country seeking a better life. They just came too late. Itinerant, unskilled workers could as recently as last spring show up in the No. 2 U.S. oil producing state and vie for salaries north of $100,000 per year with guaranteed housing. The steep drop in oil prices has changed that. After trying unsuccessfully for over a month to find work, the friends decided to leave Williston. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS COMMODITIES EMPLOYMENT SOCIETY) PICTURE 6 OF 28 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY 'IN PURSUIT OF THE AMERICAN DREAM' SEARCH 'CULLEN DREAM' FOR ALL IMAGES
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"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 U.S. Departments of Justice, Army and Interior said in a joint statement released minutes after Boasberg made his ruling.

Opposition to the pipeline has drawn support from 200 Native American tribes, along with celebrities and activists from across the globe.

The Standing Rock Sioux, whose tribal lands are a half-mile south of the proposed route, say the pipeline would desecrate sacred burial and prayer sites, and could leak oil into the Missouri and Cannon Ball rivers, on which the tribe relies for water.

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Last weekend, protests at the site turned violent.

Dakota Access and its parent company, Energy Transfer Partners LP of Dallas, declined to comment.

The $3.7 billion, 1,100-mile (1,770 km) Dakota Access pipeline would be the first to allow movement of crude oil from the Bakken shale, a vast oil formation in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada.

It would carry oil from just north of land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to Illinois, where it would connect with an existing pipeline and route crude directly to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

In his ruling Boasberg said he could not concur with claims by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that the government erred in approving the Dakota Access pipeline.

(Additional reporting by Julia Harte in Washington, Catherine Ngai in New York and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Matthew Lewis)

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