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Many of the people gathered outside the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline expressed to the Bismark Tribune their willingness to keep up the fight. That comes after the ruling Friday by U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg’s decision denying the tribe’s request for an injunction halting construction on procedural grounds. The resistance to the pipeline then got a significant boost, however, from the Obama administration.
The departments of Interior, Justice and the U.S. Army (Corps of Engineers) issued a joint statement saying the Army Corps will not authorize any pipeline construction on their land near Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The statement says “important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.” The statement does deal with construction planned elsewhere, but department officials asked Dakota Access, LLP to voluntarily halt construction 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe. The departmental release goes on to outline a revised process for tribes to weigh in on similar projects:
“This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects. Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations…”
The National Congress of American Indians is among the organizations and individuals praising the administration’s actions.
“What I’ve seen in my two visits to Standing Rock is the transformative power Indian Country has when we stand together and speak with one voice to protect our waters, our lands, and our sacred places for future generations. No decision from any court can take away the power of our prayers, our songs, and the collective voice of our peoples. NCAI and all of Indian Country will continue to Stand with Standing Rock,” said NCAI President Brain Cladoosby in a written statement.
The administration’s promise to work more with tribes is also mentioned as impetus for at least one member of Congress to travel to the Standing Rock site. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, released a statement that he will pay a visit to North Dakota in solidarity with the tribe and intends to meet with Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault.
“Despite the federal government’s legal trust responsibility to ensure federally permitted projects do not threaten historically or culturally significant tribal places, the trust lands of tribal nations, or the waters that run through them, the Standing Rock Sioux were never consulted about the DAPL,” Grijalva said in a written release.
A floating caravan of boats from Pacific Northwest tribes were welcomed by whoops of encouragement as they arrived at the Sacred Stone Camp near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. A helicopter hovered above as the boaters made landfall.
Just hours before, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple activated the state’s National Guard to help provide security along with local law enforcement in areas where the protesters and construction crews cross paths.
“Public safety has always been and continues to be paramount,” Dalrymple said at a press conference. “We must make sure that peace is maintained.”
The increasing tension has tribal leaders urging calm.
“We’re here to stand strong with unity and prayer and when we do that that’s a lot more powerful than if we do something that’s irresponsible,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault.
Both sides — the tribe and the company backing the Dakota Access Pipeline construction– have vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling if the decision is not in their favor. The ruling will determine whether the Army Corps of Engineers violated a section of the National Historic Preservation Act that calls for consultation with tribes prior to any development that may affect tribal lands. The tribe claims construction has already disturbed culturally significant sites.
Meanwhile, supporters of the project insist modern technology makes the Dakota Access Pipeline the safest way to transport oil compared to trucks or trains cars. North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness says the development is also a good way to generate tax revenue for the state. He says even if the tribe manages to stop the pipeline in court, development of the oil is inevitable.
“This oil’s going to get produced, there’s absolutely no question,” Ness said. “This oil’s being produced today. I think the pipleline continues.”
If it’s built, the Dakota Access Pipeline would transfer more than a half million barrels of crude oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois.
By Jenni Monet
CANNON BALL, SOUTH DAKOTA – The debate over the Dakota Access Pipeline is taking place on several fronts, including two courtrooms and work sites near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. In Washington D.C. on Tuesday, a federal judge granted only a partial stop on the North Dakota pipeline work. U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled the company must halt construction on a portion of land where he believes the Army Corps of Engineers lacks jurisdiction. The Standing Rock chairman expressed disappointment the scope of the order does not cover the main area requested by the tribe.
The judge’s ruling stems from excavation work the previous weekend in an area tribal officials say is culturally and historically significant. The work prompted confrontations between activists and security guards hired by Dakota Access, LLP, the company building the $3.7 billion pipeline. The guards used dogs and pepper spray against dozens of people who scaled a fence in an attempt to stop the construction work.
Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault said the partial denial of the restraining order puts the tribe’s sacred places at further risk of ruin and undermines tribal sovereignty.
“We are disappointed that the U.S. District Court’s decision does not prevent (the Dakota Access Pipeline) from destroying our sacred sites as we await a ruling on our original motion to stop construction of the pipeline,” Archambault said in a written release. The judge is expected to rule by Friday on whether federal officials adequately consulted with tribes before issuing permits to build the pipeline.
Meanwhile, support for the protest continues to pour in from other tribes, celebrities and political figures. The Canadian Assembly of First Nations issued a statement condemning what it calls the pipeline company’s “human rights violations.” The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues calls on the U.S. government to provide a “fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process” to resolve the issue and to avoid escalation into violence and further human rights abuses. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein faces possible charges for spray-painting pipeline construction equipment. Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne promised to donate proceeds from a recent album to the tribes opposing the pipeline.
Meanwhile the company building the pipeline accuses the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of encouraging “illegal conduct” by protesters. In a court filing this week, Dakota Access, LLP said protesters have broken fences, trespassed on private land and issued threats of physical violence against construction workers and other employees.
By Jenni Monet
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The backers of the Dakota Access oil pipeline lack a key easement to complete construction. The Bismark Tribune reports Army Corps of Engineers officials confirm Energy Transfer Partners does not have a written easement to build on Corps property. A Corps spokesman tells the paper the agency issued permission for the easement to be written, but that is still under review. The Des Moines Register reports the pipeline is nearly a quarter of the way built in that state.
Meanwhile Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the other tribal nations fighting construction of the oil pipeline. The former presidential candidate compared the 3.7-billion dollar pipeline to the failed Keystone XL pipeline proposal, which he also opposed. Sanders says the U.S. needs to find more renewable sources of energy, rather than oil derived from fracking.
Nearly 90 tribal nations have declared their support to those working to halt the pipeline since the Army Corps cleared construction of the 1,100-mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. Hundreds of people from all over the country are gathered just outside the Standing Rock Reservation in opposition to the start of construction there. A federal judge is expected to rule within the next two weeks on Standing Rock’s request for an injunction against the pipeline plan on procedural grounds. The pipeline company, Dakota Access LLC, also won a temporary restraining order against Standing Rock officials and other protesters.