North Dakota lawmakers say the Trump administration is removing a major obstacle for the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline through their state, a move that will likely reopen major protests over the pipeline.
In a statement on Tuesday, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said the acting Secretary of the Army told him he has directed the Corps of Engineers to grant the easement needed to finish building the pipeline. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) also confirmed the news in a statement.
Hoeven said he's also working to enlist federal law enforcement forces to back up state and local officials–who shot peaceful protesters near Standing Rock with rubber bullets and used tear gas–in policing the construction site.
On Facebook, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe vowed to "vigorously pursue legal action" if and when the easement is formally granted.
"While this news is disappointing, it is unfortunately not surprising," the Facebook post read. "We stand ready to fight this battle against corporate interest superseding government procedure and the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans."
In a statement sent to Fusion, Army Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost said the assistant secretary for the Army Civil Works still has to make a decision on whether to formally approve the easement.
President Obama had moved to pause plans to complete the pipeline pending an environmental study, but shortly after Donald Trump's inauguration, he signed an executive order to allow both the Dakota and Keystone XL pipelines to proceed.
Plans to construct the massive pipeline, which will carry oil from North Dakota to refineries in the Midwest, sparked major protests by members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who contend that a possible oil spill would irrevocably damage their sacred lands and contaminate their water source.
This post has been updated with comment from the US Army.