Sanity has finally prevailed in the eight-month standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers has announced that it will not grant an easement that would have allowed the pipeline to skirt the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
The pipeline’s original route would have sent it under Lake Oahe, just a half mile north of the reservation. The tribe had vehemently opposed that route. It contended that a rupture would endanger the reservation’s drinking water supply, as well as sacred burial and cultural sites. For most of the spring and summer, members of the tribe, as well as activists from around the country, have protested the planned route.
The pipeline debate exploded onto the national stage in September, when construction workers for Energy Transfer Partners, the consortium building the pipeline, bulldozed one of those burial sites. When protesters marched to the site, they were met with attack dogs and pepper spray. However, the protests have continued unabated, even as North Dakota’s harsh winter sets in.
On November 14, the Army Corps of Engineers delayed a final decision on the easement; it had been mulling an alternate route for the project. On Sunday afternoon, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy announced that there will be no easement. Darcy, who oversees the Corps’ numerous dam, canal, and flood protection projects, said that three weeks of consultations with both the Standing Rock Sioux and Energy Transfer Partners revealed that “there’s more work to do”–and the only way forward would be to “explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
Darcy also called for an environmental impact statement for the entire pipeline project. A full environmental assessment had not been conducted, which is simply staggering for a project of this magnitude.
CNN’s Sara Sidner was on hand when the announcement was made. Watch here.
North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple had ordered the protesters to leave by Monday. However, tribal chairman Dave Archambault said that nothing less than a reroute would make them leave, and some 2,000 veterans had deployed to the site in a show of solidarity. Under the circumstances, the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision diffuses what would have been a very volatile scene on Monday.
In a statement, Archambault praised the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the White House and the Departments of Justice and the Interior, for deciding to “correct the course of history and do the right thing” in the face of “a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle.”
In contrast, North Dakota’s lone congressman, Kevin Cramer, slammed the decision, saying that it amounted to rewarding “criminal behavior” and endangered the future of infrastructure development in this country. He also claimed that Darcy couldn’t give any legal justification for rerouting the pipeline. Um, Kevin? What part of “environmental impact statement” do you not understand?
Simply put, there was no reason on paper why Standing Rock should have prevailed. But as The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur points out, this can only be described as a victory for people power.
Despite having a wealthy oil consortium and the full power of the state government behind it, for now, this project is on hold. This, friends, is what democracy looks like.
(featured image courtesy Desiree Kane, available under a Creative Commons-BY license)