The U.S. Army won't grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota, effectively halting construction on the project to study other routes.
The service's announcement on Sunday came after many veterans joined several hundred other protesters who encamped near the construction site in a bid to halt the project. Critics said the development could pollute drinking water of a local Native American tribe and threatens treaty rights.
Most of the nearly $4 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipline from oil production fields in North Dakota to a terminal in Illinois is nearly complete. Even so, the Army said it won't approve an easement to allow the line to cross under Lake Oahe, a dammed section of the Missouri River, in North Dakota, about a half-mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.
Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army's assistant secretary for civil works, said her decision was based on the need to explore alternate routes for the crossing.
"Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," Darcy said in a statement. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."
Darcy called for that process to include an environment impact assessment with public input and analysis.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe praised the decision but remained cautious, the Associated Press reported. "We don't know what Trump is going to do," Miles Allard told the news organization.
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple called it a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation" and U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said it's a "very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the United States, according to the AP.