DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE UPDATE
Contributor: Scott Brown
To the joy and relief of thousands of pipeline protestors, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced they would not approve an easement to allow the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The decision was celebrated and greeted with caution by the protestors who have been camping in the thousands at the Standing Rock reservation in opposition to the pipeline. The news came the same day thousands of veterans from across the country began joining “water protectors” at the camp in solidarity in order to defend the protestors’ right to peacefully protest.
The Dakota Access Pipeline conflict has been focused on opposition to pipeline construction near sacred native sites and concerns over risks to Lake Oahe, the only source of drinking water for thousands of people including the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. For eight months the protestors based at the encampment have been protesting, praying, and participating in civil disobedience and direct action in efforts to stop the pipeline from crossing native land and local water sources. Though thousands of others have joined from across the country, the protest was organized, led by the native people. This is a historically unprecedented gathering of Native American tribes characterized by Van Jones the “Native American Selma.”
Since protests began in April, hundreds of protestors were arrested and there have been several incidents of violence including private security using dogs and pepper spray against protestors. More recently police have used tear gas and water cannons on protestors in twenty-degree weather, as well as non-lethal rubber bullets and tear gas canisters that have sent dozens of protestors to the hospital.
The day after the Army Corps announcement, an oil pipeline leak was discovered sending crude oil into Ash Coulee Creek only 200 miles away from the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. There have been over 2,000 reported pipeline leaks in the past 20 years, and from 2013 to 2015 there were an average of 121 leaks every year.
Despite the Army saying that it will re-examine the environmental impacts of the pipeline as well as other possible routes, the election of Donald Trump has created an air of uncertainty over the pipeline. Trump, who has defended the fossil fuel industry on numerous occasions, is expected to review this decision and may attempt to cancel or rush the environmental review to allow the final pipeline construction. Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, has vowed to continue construction along the original route despite the Army Corps decision. Despite the Army Corps decision and the urgings of local authorities to leave the camp for the winter, protestors have vowed to stay and continue fighting the pipeline.