The Army Corps of Engineers has said that it will not grant the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline route that Energy Transfer Partners had planned beneath Lake Oahe. The lake is a reservoir for the Missouri River, a critical water source for millions of people, both in North Dakota and in states downriver from it.
Of course, North Dakota’s governor, Jack Dalrymple, called the decision to deny an easement a “serious mistake,” and Energy Transfer Partners has previously stated that it is not willing to re-route the project.
The announcement comes as more than 2,000 U.S. military veterans descended upon Standing Rock to assist the anti-DAPL water protectors from the violence originating with Morton County sheriffs and other law enforcement officials from around the state and country.
Former presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders praised the decision, and released a statement congratulating President Obama for denying the easement.
“I appreciate very much President Obama listening to the Native American people and millions of others who believe this pipeline should not be built. In the year 2016, we should not continue to trample on native American sovereignty. We should not endanger the water supply of millions of people. We should not become more dependent on fossil fuel and accelerate the planetary crisis of climate change. Our job now is to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels, not to produce more greenhouse gas emissions.”
While some folks are celebrating the decision to block the Dakota Access easement, others are warning that the fight isn’t over. The reasoning for this has to do with previous Army Corps requests that Energy Transfer Partners temporarily stop drilling until more studies were performed. In September, Dakota Access builders defied the request, and continued to drill despite not having an easement. In the process, construction workers destroyed burial grounds that were sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
In November, the Army Corps of Engineers asked Dakota Access builders to temporarily halt construction for a second time, and the company ignored the request again and continued construction, according to Indian Country Today.
Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard arrived at Standing Rock on Saturday to discuss the critical issue of blocking the pipeline and protecting the water with tribal leaders. MSNBC interviewed Gabbard, where she discussed the movement of veterans to protect the water protectors at Standing Rock.
“This is the first big gathering of veterans I participated in last night. It was quite an interesting thing to see veterans of all generations converging together. People who are strangers, essentially, but are brothers and sisters in arms who have come here answering this higher call to put service before self once again in peace and prayer to protect water. They understand that this is not just about the potential water contamination for the people of Standing Rock, but it’s for the millions of people in these surrounding states that would also be impacted.”
On December 3, Gabbard tweeted that she had met with Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault where she heard the challenges facing the Sioux “for generations” and how they hope to protect the water from the Dakota Access Pipeline for future generations.
According to Yahoo! News, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of Civil Works with the Army Corps of Engineers discussed the decision to deny an easement that was planned for Lake Oahe.
“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s 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.”
The Obama Administration’s denial of an easement could spell trouble for the Dakota Access Pipeline and for its parent company, Energy Transfer Partners. In August court filings, the company claimed that if the pipeline is not complete and oil not running through by the end of 2016, it could cause the project to lose money.
Joey Mahmoud, the Dakota Access vice president and executive vice president of engineering and construction, issued court documents detailing the risks of a delay.
“The long-term transportation contracts give shippers a right to terminate their commitments if DAPL is not in full service per the contract deadline.”
The company may ignore the government and drill under Lake Oahe, despite not having an easement permit. However, in this case, Energy Transfer Partners, and the Dakota Access Pipeline will be in direct violation of federal law. At this point, it is unknown what the company’s executives will decide, but the company may possibly get a reprieve from Donald Trump once he is inaugurated. And then the fight at Standing Rock will begin once again in force.
[Featured Image by David Goldman/AP Images]