dakota access pipeline
Native American "water protectors" celebrate that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied an easement Dakota Access Pipeline near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 4, 2016.Reuters

The US Army Corps of Engineers said they would not grant easement — right to use the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's land — for completing the last leg of the Dakota Access Pipeline after massive protest by the tribe and their supporters. 

The Army on Sunday said that permission will not be given to make the pipeline under the Lake Oahe in North Dakota, which could have potentially contaminated the water source for the tribe and demolished cultural sites. 

"I'm happy as heck," said Everett Iron Eyes, a retired director of natural resources for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and one of the organisers of a camp protesters set up near the pipeline site. "All our prayers have been answered."

"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."

The Army's assistant secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said that after speaking to the tribal officials it became "clear that there's more work to do."

"The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing," Darcy said in a statement. The Army Corps says it intends to issue an Environmental Impact Statement with "full public input and analysis."

The decision by the Army was criticised by North Dakota's leaders. Governor Jack Dalrymple called it a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation". He was referring to several hundred protesters still camping on the southern part of the state in the cold and harsh winter. US Rep. Kevin Cramer said it's a "very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the United States.

The two companies that are jointly in-charge of the pipeline issued a statement after the Army's announcement. 

"Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. (NYSE: ETP) and Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (NYSE: SXL) announced that the Administration's statement today that it would not at this time issue an "easement" to Dakota Access Pipeline, which is a purely political action. This is nothing new from this Administration, since over the last four months the Administration has demonstrated by its action and inaction that it intended to delay a decision in this matter until President Obama is out of office.

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 favour with a narrow and extreme political constituency.

As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way," they said in a statement. 

The pipeline was initially planned to route through Bismark, a city in North Dakota and has 90 percent white population. When environmental concerns were raised the pipeline's route was moved to be under the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's.