CANNON BALL, North Dakota – The US Army Corps of Engineers has turned down a permit for a controversial pipeline project running through North Dakota, in a victory for Native Americans and climate activists who have protested against the project for several months.
The Dakota Access pipeline is an 1,172-mile, 30-inch pipeline designed to transport oil from Bakken and Three Forks in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois, with an expectation it will move about 470,000 barrels per day.
The pipeline, it’s constructors say, will allow oil and gas shippers to reach more customers in the Midwest, along the East Coast and the Gulf Coast of Texas.
“The Army will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record,” a statement from the US Army said yesterday.
Leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who along with climate activists have been protesting the $3.8bn project, welcomed the decision, which will prevent the destruction of a burial ground near the path of the pipeline. They said it could contaminate the water supply and damage sacred tribal lands.
“Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward. We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement.
The protest has garnered support from thousands who have flocked to North Dakota to protest against the completion of the line.
About 2,000 veterans joined the protest this weekend, forming a human shield around the growing group of protesters against the pipeline.
“Today, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline,” said Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II, in a statement.
“Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.”
But Energy Transfer Partners can still appeal the decision, according to a lawyer representing the tribe.
“They can sue, and the Trump administration can try to overturn [the decision],” Jan Hasselman, a staff lawyer for Earthjustice, told the US media.
Energy Transfer Partners has already said that it was unwilling to reroute the project.
“The administration’s statement today that it would not at this time issue an ‘easement’ to Dakota Access Pipeline is a purely political action,” Energy Transfer Partners said in a press release on Sunday.
Although the decision from the Obama Administration has been celebrated by the Tribe and others who supported the battle, both the Tribe and those who want the pipe built say they hope and expect President-elect Donald Trump to reverse the decision when he takes office in January. Trump, and many of his advisors, have publicly backed the project previously.
The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a group of businesses and labor groups who want the pipe to be built, called the decision “purely political” and expect it will be reversed quickly when Trump takes office.
In September, the Army Corps halted construction of the pipeline over concerns about the lake, which is a primary water source, and the burial grounds, which are protected under federal law, as it gathered information and gave the public a chance to comment.
Most of the construction of the pipe is nearing completion, with the 1,100 foot crossing at Lake Oahe as an exception. With the decision, work will start to find another path for the section of pipe.