On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to deny an easement to allow the 1,170-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline to cross underneath Lake Oahe in North Dakota was met with celebrations. Thousands of pipeline protesters rejoiced at the news after a months-long standoff. Moreover, the army said the pipeline operator should reroute it so it doesn’t put at risk a Native American tribe’s water supply.
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their allies set a camp on federal land to block the construction of the pipeline several months ago. The protests continued in hot summer days and harsh winter nights despite authorities’ several interventions.
The Fight Probably Not Over
The tribe, who lives in a reservation nearby, said the pipeline poses a risk to its water supply. Also, the construction may lead to the desecration of its sacred burial grounds. Tribe leaders, on the other hand, don’t think rerouting is a permanent solution. The elders are concerned that a Republican administration could reverse everything they fought for.
Protest leaders urged protesters to “keep up the pressure” and get ready to continue their protests now that the Obama administration, which granted the victory, is about to leave. Furthermore, protesters expect renewed threats over the next year. Also, they pledged not to stop until the project faces a “complete and utter” defeat.
Experts, however, think the win may be short-lived. Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners which co-owns the pipeline, sponsored president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign. Trump himself pledged to support the construction of such pipelines and support the U.S. energy industry. At one time, he even owned a $500,000-to-$1-million stake in Energy Transfer Partners. Nevertheless, his team said he sold that stock. Furthermore, earlier this year, he owned shares at Phillips 66 which owns 25 percent of the pipeline project in North Dakota.
The Army Corps said Sunday it would not give Dakota Access representatives the permit to build the pipeline on the controversial site. Military officials said they discussed te issue with the tribe’s leaders. In the end, both sides concluded an alternative route would be the best solution.
Pipeline Halt Stirs Criticism
So, the corps’ recommended the pipeline operator to consider alternate routes for the construction. The army’s move comes nearly one month after it said that it was postponing the decision in the wake of the protests.
What’s more, the federal agency said the company should make public an environmental impact statement before proposing alternate routes. The statement will help prevent potential standoffs with the new federal government.
In response, Sunoco Logistics Partners and Energy Transfer Partners, which co-sponsored the pipeline’s construction, were confident Sunday that they would complete the project without rerouting around Lake Oahe.
In addition, the two companies said Obama administration’s directive cannot undo previous court decisions in favor of the project.
“Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way,”
one of the companies said Sunday.
Furthermore, according to North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, Trump’s transition team backs the completion of the pipeline. Under the multi-billion-dollar project, the pipeline will ferry 470,000 barrels of oil from North Dakota to Illinois every day.
Trump’s office has yet to reply to media’s requests for comment.
House Speaker Paul Ryan took to Twitter to criticize the slowdown in the construction. He deemed the White House’s decision a “big-government decision-making at its worst.”
This is big-government decision-making at its worst. I look forward to putting this anti-energy presidency behind us. https://t.co/Qu0nFTmGZv
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 5, 2016
Rep. Kevin Cramer from North Dakota (R.) pledged to fight for the construction and slammed Obama as a “lawless President” who repeatedly ignored the laws of the country.
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