The protests at Standing Rock have been going on for months. Thousands of people, led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, have been camped out on disputed federal land to dispute the controversial, multi-billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline. While the Standing Rock battle began as peaceful opposition to the pipeline, a pipeline the Sioux say will compromise their clean water and destroy sacred sites, recent weeks have seen violent and destructive clashes between protesters and law enforcement escalate.
Several protesters have suffered catastrophic injuries, and North Dakota Sheriff Gary Schwartzenberger was removed from office due to “bullying and militant police tactics” against Standing Rock protesters. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota Governor effectively evicted the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters from the disputed location, but the protesters stood their ground.
Over the weekend, veterans from across the U.S. began arriving at Standing Rock to lend their manpower to the massive protest, promising to form a “human shield” to protect the predominantly Native American protesters. The vets also brought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of much-needed supplies to Standing Rock, even building warm shelters to help the protesters hunker down on site through the bitter North Dakota winter.
On Sunday, it appeared that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and its supporters had gotten a massive break from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As Aljazeera reports, the Corps of Engineers issued a statement saying that a necessary permit for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline was being denied, effectively halting the project in the disputed Lake Oahe area and advising the company behind it to find an alternative route away from Standing Rock.
“The Army will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record.”
The disputed Lake Oahe portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline is the final segment of the project, which is the brainchild of Energy Transfer Partners LP and Sunoco Logistics. However, Sunday’s news doesn’t mean that the battle for Standing Rock is over. In fact, now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision has had some time to sink in, it appears that both sides of the Dakota Access Pipeline conflict are preparing for the next phase of the Standing Rock battle.
On Sunday, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II released a statement that recognized that nothing is set in stone yet.
“Today, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.”
An attorney for the tribe also indicated that the uphill battle to reroute the controversial pipeline is still not over.
“They can sue, and the Trump administration can try to overturn [the decision].”
As BBC reports, the Trump administration has shown support for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and it has been reported that Donald Trump has (or at least had) a vested financial interest in the controversial Standing Rock-related project. It is very likely that Energy Transfer Partners will appeal to the President-elect to overturn the Army Corps of Engineers decision to reroute the project once he takes office in January. It is equally likely that Trump will do just that, much to the chagrin of the Standing Rock protesters.
Following Sunday’s news that the Lake Oahe easement request has been denied, both Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics indicated that they can be expected to follow precisely that path, calling the decision “purely political action.”
The firms went on to point the finger at the Obama White House, accusing the powers that be of “currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.”
Both firms also appear to think that Sunday’s Standing Rock announcement was merely political theater as opposed to a binding legal decision regarding the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline, saying that they “fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe.”
The companies behind the controversial pipeline aren’t the only ones unhappy with Sunday’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple (who just Saturday confirmed that a meeting with Standing Rock Sioux tribal elders was on the agenda for the immediate future) has called the decision a “serious mistake.” Other North Dakota politicians have made similar statements.
While many spent Sunday afternoon celebrating what appeared to be a major victory in the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, it appears that a final solution isn’t so simple. The Standing Rock battle won’t be over until the pipeline is rerouted and completed away from Lake Oahe.
[Featured Image by David Goldman/AP Photo]