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Federal government denies permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline

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The decision comes after months of protests

Protests Continue At Standing Rock Sioux Reservation Over Dakota Pipeline Access Project Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Army Corps of Engineers has announced that it would not approve permits for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline under a reservoir on the Missouri River called Lake Oahe, according to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The announcement comes after months of intense protests and just days after protesters were ordered to leave.

The Corps said that it is looking at possible alternative routes. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing," Army assistant secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a statement. The government’s decision will essentially bring the project to a stop, according to NPR.

The protests have intensified over the final, uncompleted segment, which would have crossed under the reservoir, joining two completed parts of the pipeline together. In November, the Army Corps of Engineers delayed granting the Energy Transfer Partners an easement, or permission to access and drill on the federal land adjacent to the lake; the government said that additional study was needed to assess the environmental impact. Now, the Army Corps of Engineers has decided to deny an easement altogether, so an alternative route will have to be found.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members and protesters have been opposed to the project over worries that it could contaminate their water and impact important historic sites. (Lake Oahe is the major water source for the Tribe.) The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement that it "wholeheartedly support[s] the decision of the [Obama] administration," and urged the incoming Trump administration to "respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point."