The Army Corps of Engineers announced yesterday that it would not permit the Dakota Access Pipeline to be drilled under Lake Oahe and will look for alternative routes, granting water protectors a “brief respite” in their months-long protest.
Thousands of activists in the camps celebrated the Army’s announcement as validation of their struggle, which they’ve remained committed to despite the increasingly treacherous winter weather conditions and brutal repression tactics by the police, including the use of rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas on protesters and bystanders without warning.
“In a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle, it took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship, and we will be forever grateful,” said David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux. In addition, he stated, “We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples.”
While some protesters see this as an opportunity to now spend the winter with their families, others have declared their intention to stay, distrustful of the decision’s uncertainties.
Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, issued a contemptuous statement in response to the decision, accusing the Obama administration of having “abandoned the rule of law,” referring to the water protectors as “a narrow and extreme political constituency,” and vowing to move forward with the project without any rerouting around Lake Oahe.
When the Trump administration takes office next month, they could ultimately decide to forego all environmental impact investigations and allow construction of the Pipeline to proceed through the original challenged route. President-elect Trump owns stock in Energy Transfer Partners and has recently voiced his support for routing the Pipeline under Lake Oahe.
For months, thousands of water protectors representing over 280 Tribes have been protesting the construction of the 1,200 mile Pipeline that would carry nearly 550,000 barrels of oil a day under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, which is a major water supply for local ranches, the Missouri River and the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The Pipeline would pass through the Tribe’s treaty lands, sacred sights and burial grounds, and a spill could contaminate the area’s water supply and pose a massive environmental, economic, cultural and public health threat to the Tribe.
The Pipeline was originally supposed to go through Bismarck, but was moved after authorities worried an oil spill would contaminate the state capital’s drinking water.