The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) will grant Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, the final easement needed to finish construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has opposed the project from its conception, vows to challenge the decision in court.
“The drinking water of millions of Americans is now at risk,” says Dave Archambault II, tribe chairman, in a statement released late Tuesday. “We are a sovereign nation and we will fight to protect our water and sacred places from the brazen private interests trying to push this pipeline through to benefit a few wealthy Americans with financial ties to the Trump administration.”
But Archambault also urged supporters of the #NoDAPL movement not to return to the camps in Cannon Ball, N.D., where many thousands have travelled since August of last year to protest the pipeline. “Our fight is no longer at the North Dakota site itself,” says Archambault. “Our fight is with Congress and the Trump administration.” The Standing Rock Sioux, Native Nations of the United States and their allies are organizing a demonstration in Washington D.C on March 10.
This final easement effectively gives Dakota Access the permission it needs to tunnel under the Lake Oahe Reservoir, part of the Missouri River, in North Dakota. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe views the pipeline’s construction as a desecretion of their sacred sites and the oil it will carry as a threat to their water supply. In December, the outgoing Obama administration instructed the USACE to temporarily withhold the permit so that a full environmental impact statement (EIS) could be prepared and alternate routes explored. But on January 24, President Trump signed an executive order fast tracking the environmental permitting process required for DAPL along with other executive orders aimed at reviving the Keystone XL pipeline and using more American steel in its construction.
The tribe says the EIS has been wrongfully terminated. “This pipeline was unfairly rerouted across our treaty lands,” says Archambault. “The Trump administration— yet again — is poised to set a precedent that defies the law and the will of Americans and our allies around the world.” The press release continues:
Attorneys for the Tribe emphasize that the easement cannot be granted legally at this time. “The Obama administration correctly found that the Tribe’s treaty rights needed to be acknowledged and protected, and that the easement should not be granted without further review and consideration of alternative crossing locations,” said Jan Hasselman, lead attorney for the Tribe. “Trump’s reversal of that decision continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian Tribes and unlawful violation of Treaty rights. They will be held accountable in court.”
Next steps for Tribe and allies
- The Tribe will challenge any easement decision on the grounds that the EIS was wrongfully terminated. The Tribe will demand a fair, accurate and lawful environmental impact statement to identify true risks to its treaty rights, including its water supply and sacred places.
- The Tribe has asked the court for DAPL to disclose its oil spill and risk assessment records for full transparency and review by the public.
- If DAPL is successful in constructing and operating the pipeline, the Tribe will seek to shut the pipeline operations down.
- A Native Nations march on Washington is scheduled for March 10. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and tribes across the country invite allies in America and from around the world to join the march.
“As Native peoples, we have been knocked down again, but we will get back up, we will rise above the greed and corruption that has plagued our peoples since first contact,” says Archambault.
“We call on the Native Nations of the United States to stand together, unite and fight back. Under this administration, all of our rights, everything that makes us who we are is at risk. Please respect our people and do not come to Standing Rock and instead exercise your First Amendment rights and take this fight to your respective state capitols, to your members of Congress, and to Washington, DC.”