Feds block route of Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota

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CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it won't grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota.

Corps spokeswoman Moria Kelley said in a news release Sunday that the administration will not allow the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir where construction had been on hold.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said her decision was based on the need to "explore alternate routes" for the pipeline's crossing.

The Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell added the Army Corps' decision to not grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline "ensures there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes."

Jewell also said in a statement that the decision "underscores that tribal rights ... are essential components of the analysis" for the environmental impact statement.

The route has been the subject of months of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others, who have argued the pipeline threatens a water source and cultural sites.

The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, and the Morton County Sheriff's Office didn't have immediate comment.

North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer called the Army Corps' decision "a very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the U.S.

Cramer said in a statement that infrastructure will be hard to build "when criminal behavior is rewarded this way," apparently referring to the large protest encampment on federal land and the clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement.

Cramer also said that "law and order" will be restored when Donald Trump takes office and that he feels bad for the Corps having to do "diligent work ... only to have their Commander-in-Chief throw them under the bus."

The federal government has ordered people to leave the main encampment, which is on Army Corps of Engineers' land and is close to the construction site, by Monday.

Demonstrators say they're prepared to stay, and federal, state and local authorities say they won't forcibly remove the protesters.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that the Department of Justice will still monitor the protest in North Dakota and is ready to "provide resources" for those who "can play a constructive role in easing tensions."

Lynch said in a statement that the safety of those in the area, including officers, residents and protesters, "continues to be our foremost concern."