A decision on whether the Dakota Access Pipeline will be allowed to be completed near sacred tribal lands in North Dakota will come in the next few days, possibly by Monday, a U.S. government spokeswoman said on Friday.
The statement by spokeswoman Amy Gaskill of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came as police again confronted protesters at a construction site on the controversial pipeline, which has drawn steady opposition from Native American and environmental activists since the summer.
Smoke was seen emanating from a large excavation vehicle near a site off Route 6 in rural North Dakota, and protesters had also climbed into other equipment, according to a Reuters witness. Two workers were seen leaving the scene.
The Dakota Access Pipeline, set to run from North Dakota to Illinois, was delayed in September so federal authorities could re-review permits. The line was planned to run under a federally owned water source near sacred tribal lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The Obama administration intervened in September to temporarily halt construction under that source, Lake Oahe, so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could review permitting.
The 1,172-mile (1,885 km) pipeline has been the source of heated protests from the Standing Rock Sioux and climate activists. The Obama administration had requested a voluntary halt to construction within 20 miles of the lake on each side.
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP.N), which owns the line, continued to build to the edge of the federal land where the lake is located.
The company said earlier this week said it was “mobilizing” drilling equipment to prepare to tunnel under the lake. That has angered protesters, who planned more protests in coming days. ETP was not immediately available for comment.