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D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denies CRST Religious Freedom appeal



On Saturday, March 18, 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s emergency motion for injunction pending appeal to stop the flow of oil in the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe while the appeals court considers the Tribe’s challenge pursuant to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”). 


The case in the D.C. Circuit is an appeal from the district court’s March 7, 2017 Order denying the Tribe’s motion for preliminary injunction under RFRA. 


On March 15, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed an emergency motion for injunction pending appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the flow of oil in the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe while the appeals court considers the Tribe’s motion.


The case in the D.C. Circuit is an appeal from the district court’s March 7, 2017 Order denying the Tribe’s motion for preliminary injunction under RFRA.


In the motion, The Lakota people of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe believe that the presence of this crude oil pipeline—the Black Snake—under the sacred waters of Lake Oahe will render the waters ritually impure for use in essential Lakota religious sacraments.  


Dakota Access, LLC has stated in court filings that oil could begin flowing through the pipeline as soon as this week.


The Tribe’s motion asked the Circuit Court to issue a ruling before oil begin flowing.  A briefing schedule on the merits of the appeal has not yet been set.


In a press release, CRST Chairman Harold Frazier said “The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of course is disappointed in the outcome of this motion. The flow of oil under Lake Oahe will devastate the practice of our religion.”