In a devastating blow to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and thousands of other protesters, the U.S. Army Corps of engineers is set to approve the final phase of Dakota Access Pipeline construction. The final disputed stretch of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline is slated to be constructed underneath Lake Oahe.
As NBC News reports, the companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline were waiting for an easement permit request to be approved by the U.S. government before the pipeline project could be completed. The easement had been previously approved, but the Obama administration rescinded it at the end of 2016 in the midst of the Standing Rock protests against the nearly $4 billion, multi-state Dakota Access Pipeline.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers pulled the easement approval for the completion of the pipeline project, Energy Transfer Partners (the company behind the pipeline) vowed that they would finish the Dakota Access Pipeline along its planned route and waited for the Trump administration to take office.
As one of his first acts as POTUS, Donald Trump signed an executive order approving the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline as engineered. On Tuesday, the Army said that the requested permit and its associated 30-year-easement will be approved this week, with pipeline construction slated to begin again as early as Wednesday.
In an even bigger slap in the face to those opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also inferred that the environmental impact statement associated with the easement approval will not be drafted.
Those in opposition to the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, many members of or closely associated with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, believe that the crude oil transport project will compromise their water supply — and the water supplies of all downriver from Lake Oahe. Protesters at Standing Rock have taken to calling themselves (and being called) “water protectors.”
Currently, hundreds of so-called water protectors still remain near the site of the last, reportedly soon-to-be-completed leg of the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The protests against the pipeline have been ongoing since early 2016, and for months they remained largely peaceful.
Last fall, that all changed. Clashes between law enforcement (and private security contractors) and pipeline protesters escalated and became increasingly violent. Injuries and property damage were widely reported. Hundreds of arrests were made.
Threats of mass eviction began to swirl, both by way of the federal and North Dakota government. Then, last December, thousands of U.S. military veterans descended on Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters, even allowing themselves to become a human shield as water protectors settled in to brave the harsh North Dakota winter.
Within the week, the Obama administration-backed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withdrew consent for the Lake Oahe easement, advising Energy Transfer Partners to look for an alternative completion route. For a brief moment, the Standing Rock protesters rejoiced. But 2017 brought wave after wave of setbacks, from Trump’s executive order, to rumors that the easement would be approved, to today’s news from the Army that the project will be given the green light to be completed as scheduled.
As The Guardian reports, the news that the Dakota Access Pipeline will be getting government approval to be completed along its controversial route could be setting the stage for a “showdown” at Standing Rock. In addition to the hundreds of largely Native American protesters who remain on site, thousands of U.S. military veterans have promised to return to Standing Rock to support the protest efforts.
The group Veterans Stand has been actively raising money to send supplies to the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp at Standing Rock, and have vowed to put boots on the ground to stand between protesters and the government if necessary.
“We stand in unity with our brothers and sisters in Standing Rock (and beyond) and our community is ready to mobilize.”
According to the organization, they believe that the U.S. government will be more hesitant to use force against protesters if they will also be forced to use equal force on honorable U.S. veterans. Especially with the world watching.
Reportedly, Congress was notified of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Dakota Access Pipeline decision in a letter addressed to Congressman Raul Grijalva, the ranking member on the House committee on natural resources. The letter indicates that the requisite Lake Oahe easement will be issued no less than 24 hours after the delivery of the February 7 correspondence.
What’s worse and an even more devastating blow to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the standard 14-day, post-congressional notification waiting period is expected to be waived, which could allow drilling under Lake Oahe to begin as early as February 8.
The Standing Rock Sioux have vowed to fight the Dakota Access Pipeline in court, but the process may be too slow to prevent the completion of the project, which Energy Transfer Partners has said could take as little as 60 days. Particularly since the process has evidently been expedited in the aftermath of the Donald Trump (who has previously invested in Energy Transfer Partners and even received campaign contributions from its CEO) executive order allowing it to move forward.
Within the last few weeks, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, led by Chairman Dave Archambault II, has asked water protectors and other Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at Standing Rock to vacate the protest camps and go home, asking them to support the resistance by participating in a March 10 march on Washington, D.C., instead.
“We ask that our allies join us in demanding that Congress demand a fair and accurate process. Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself. Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration. Meet us in Washington on 10 March.”
Despite the plea, hundreds of protesters remained at Standing Rock, with thousands more (including vets) promising to head to North Dakota if needed.
It is unknown what impact Tuesday’s decision to allow the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline might have on Standing Rock protests and the situation on the ground near the disputed Lake Oahe easement.
[Featured Image by Elaine Thompson/AP Images]