What is the latest news on the Dakota Access Pipeline?
On Tuesday, February 7, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will grant the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to cross the Missouri River. The Corps is skipping both the Environmental Impact Statement as well as the congressional notification period required by law. These actions have been taken in response to a Presidential Memorandum that ordered, “the acting secretary of the Army to expeditiously review requests for approvals to construct and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline in compliance with the law.”
On Monday, members of the Senate and House Natural Resource Committees have issued a letter to the President denouncing the Trump Administration’s tactics, stating, “This blatant disregard for federal law and our country’s treaty and trust responsibilities to Native American tribes is unacceptable. We strongly oppose this decision and any effort to undermine tribal rights. We urge you to immediately reverse this decision and follow the appropriate procedures required for tribal consultation, environmental law, and due process.”
DAPL is a 1,168-mile, $3.8 billion oil pipeline that would transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the state’s Bakken Formation to Illinois. There are conflicting reports as to whether the oil would be used in this country, or exported for sale. DAPL is funded in large part by banks. You can see a list of banks and their investments at Food and Water Watch to see if your bank is involved.
When did the tensions begin?
Last September, peoples from more than 90 Native American tribes have gathered at Standing Rock Sioux reservation, North Dakota, to protest against the creation of a four-state oil pipeline that would run through their land. Tensions reached a crescendo on September 3, after destruction of sacred tribal lands began while a complaint filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was pending decision. Construction crews began running bulldozers across the reservation, destroying sites of historic, religious, and cultural significance. Native Americans from more than 90 tribes had already been gathered on site, in an ongoing protest that began when complaint had first been filed on July 27— only to face mercenaries, pepper spray, and dogs set loose against them.
How did tensions escalate?
Organized by Energy Transfer Partners and Dakota Access (which is headquartered in Texas), the pipeline was fast-racked last month when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted a general permit to allow construction to begin, using a loophole known as Nationwide Permit 12 that does not require environmental review, tribal consultation, or public input.
On July 27, 2016, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a complaint in federal court stating that, “the construction and operation of the pipeline…threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the Tribe.”
The complaint further reveals that the two Treaties of Fort Laramie in 1851 and 1868 were given reserved land rights “set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” by the Sioux (in exchange for ceding a large portion of their aboriginal territory in the Northern Great Plains). The complaint notes that Congress betrayed the terms of the treaty twice, stripping large portions of the reservation, leaving nine smaller reservations including Standing Rock.
On September 3, construction crews began running bulldozers across the reservation, just hours after layers representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filled evidence in federal court documenting how DAPL would run through a sacred burial site.
Tribal Chairman David Archambault II stated, “The demolition is devastating. These grounds are the resting places of our ancestors. The ancient cairns and stone prayer rings there cannot be replaced. In one day, out sacred land has turned into hollow ground.”
Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said, “We’re days away from getting a resolution on the legal issues, and they came on a holiday weekend and destroyed the site.”