Federal officials have halted work on the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
According to a Sunday news release, the Army Corps. of Engineers will not approve a permit that would allow the pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota – a Missouri River reservoir and key section of the proposed route where construction has been on hold.
The Army's Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy said that she based her decision on "a need to explore alternate routes."
"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 the release. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."
Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, denounced the Army's decision as a "purely political actions" and accused the White House of deliberately delaying any action on the project until President Obama is out of office.
"For more than three years now, Dakota Access Pipeline has done nothing but play by the rules," it said in a statement Sunday night. "The Army Corps of Engineers agrees, and has said so publicly and in federal court filings."
"The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency," it added.
The company says it "fully expects" the pipeline will be built without any rerouting in and around Lake Oahe, despite Sunday's setback, with President-elect Donald Trump formally announcing on Thursday his support for the project, according to EcoWatch.
Trump's May 2016 financial disclosures revealed he has significant holdings in Energy Transfer Partners, but his spokesperson said his support "had nothing to do with personal investments" and "everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans."
What happens now?
The Army has blocked construction of the current proposed pipeline route, but where it will go now is unknown.
Darcy said the best way to find alternative routes for the pipeline is by conducting an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis, which could take months.
President-elect Donald Trump has said he supports the pipeline project, and according to The Hill, Dakota Access CEO Kelcy Warren has said the project will move forward, even if it means waiting for Trump to take office next month.
Still, protestors (who prefer to be called water protectors) and tribe members are calling Sunday's decision a big win.
"Our prayers have been answered," National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby said in a statement. "This isn't over, but it is enormously good news. All tribal peoples have prayed from the beginning for a peaceful solution, and this puts us back on track."
And the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who believe the proposed pipeline threatens their drinking water supply, is praising federal officials for doing "the right thing."
"We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing,” tribal chairman Dave Archambault said in a statement.
Also, over 2,000 veterans just arrived
The protestors at Standing Rock have been ordered to evacuate by Monday, but their numbers have only grown as thousands of veterans arrived over the weekend.
Over 200 buses arrived at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest site, carrying at least 2,100 U.S. military veterans, according to the Veterans Stand For Standing Rock Facebook page. Their mission? To support their country and act as "human shields" between the police and protestors, aka water protectors.
And according to a recent post, the veterans aren't going anywhere.
An update from a leader of the group says they will hold a ceremony Monday morning, Dec. 5 – the deadline for the evacuation ordered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages some of the federally-owned land there. North Dakota Gov. Jack Darymple has also ordered an evacuation of the area.
A GoFundMe set up for the veterans has raised over $1 million in donations as of Sunday evening.