North Dakota pipeline stakeholders must have been stunned to know that their $3.7 billion project has been suddenly halted, at least temporarily, following their short-lived victory in the U.S. District Court in Washington.
Thanks to the Obama administration’s stance against the North Dakota pipeline project, Native Americans’ fears of possible desecration of the Standing Rock Sioux’s sacred facilities and waterways only a half-mile away south of the proposed pipeline route may no longer push through.
According to Reuters, the U.S. government’s intervention came shortly after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s ruling in Washington, rejecting Native Americans’ request to block the pipeline project, to the delight of the North Dakota pipeline officials.
Unfortunately for the pipeline stakeholders, their legal victory would only prove to be momentary as U.S. Departments of Justice, Army and Interior wasted no time to draft a joint statement in an effort to halt Boasberg’s ruling.
The statement, which is available online on the U.S. Justice Department’s official website, said that while the federal government appreciates “the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act… 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.”
“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,” the statement added.
Elated by the Obama administration’s move to suspend the North Dakota pipeline project, tribal chairman Dave Archambault II said that it has marked the beginning of a nationwide reform on projects affecting tribal lands.
“Our hearts are full, this is an historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and for tribes across the nation,” Archambault said, as quoted by Reuters.
Although caught by surprise by such a quick turn of events, the MAIN Coalition, which consists of people with stakes on the pipeline project, was as quick to issue its own statement via PR Newswire, calling the Justice, Army and Interior Departments’ move against the U.S. District Court’s ruling in Washington “deeply troubling and could have a long-lasting chilling effect on private infrastructure development in the United States.”
Invoking “sound science and engineering” in an effort to defend its case and the welfare of thousands of individuals working to build the North Dakota pipeline, whose livelihoods are now in peril, the statement said that “should the Administration ultimately stop this construction, it would set a horrific precedent.”
“No sane American company would dare expend years of effort and billions of dollars weaving through an onerous regulatory process receiving all necessary permits and agreements,” the MAIN Coalition said, “only to be faced with additional regulatory impediments and be shutdown halfway through completion of its project.”
For its part, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the North Dakota pipeline project, is yet to offer a statement, making it unclear whether it would heed “the government’s request to pause construction 20 miles to the east and west of Lake Oahe,” The New York Times noted.
Having proved to be in full compliance with every state and federal rule, the company previously said that it has secured all the necessary permits to push through with the project, arguing further, according to The New York Times, that it would “create jobs, pump millions into local economies and provide a reliable way to transport oil from western North Dakota to pipeline networks in Illinois that was safer than hauling oil on trucks or trains.”
Three days before Boasberg issued his ruling against the Native Americans’ cause, over the Labor Day weekend, as cause-oriented EcoWatch noted, bulldozers were seen plowing a two-mile-long, 150-foot-wide path approaching the Standing Rock Sioux’s sacred tribal burial ground, which “was discovered only days before its destruction and was awaiting review by the state historic preservation office.”
Given such an unlikely disregard of the Sioux Indians’ heritage, which in the long run is set to cross four states known to have strong Native American presence, the project sparked the outrage and renewed activism of no less than 200 tribes, who in turn have also drawn support from cause-oriented groups and celebrities nationwide.
While commemorating the death of more than 300 Sioux Indians killed by the U.S, Army in 1863, known as the Whitestone Massacre, the Dakota Pipeline Company sent its men to attack the protesters with dogs and pepper spray, according to DemocracyNow (see video below).
[Photo by James MacPherson/AP Images]