Cannon Ball, N.D. — The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in and protestors won a victory in a battle against the Dakota Access Corporation when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week it would not be granting an easement under Lake Oahe for the Dakota Acesss $3.8 billion pipeline to cross the Missouri River a half mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation.
The Corps further stated that it planned to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for alternative routes.
These actions trigger a new round of public involvement processes to permit the final piece of the pipeline as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, represented by Earthjustice, brought a lawsuit against the Corps for its approvals for the pipeline in July of this year. The lawsuit claimed that the Corps violated multiple environmental and historic preservation statutes, focusing on the decision to reroute the pipeline from Bismarck, North Dakota to the doorstep of the Standing Rock reservation without and adequate environmental analysis and consultation.
At various times, pipeline construction has been subject to court injunctions due to the litigation.
The Corps granted permits for the pipeline in July 2016 under a highly streamlined approval process known as Nationwide Permitting. The process circumvents any kind of close environmental review and public process. The Lake Oahe crossing requires an additional approval — known as an easement — because it crosses federally owned land on either side of the Missouri River.
It was this easement that the government confirmed would not be granted.
“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman, Dave Archambault II.
“We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need.”
Archambault is renewing a call for Dakota Access oil pipeline opponents to leave a camp in southern North Dakota.
A blizzard hitting the region has brought snow, wind gusts up to 55 mph and wind chills as low as minus 15 degrees.
Archambault says there’s no reason for people in the camp to put their lives at risk. And he says emergency shelters on the nearby reservation are all full.
Some people at the camp spent the night at shelters that Morton County set up in Flasher and Mandan. Others stayed at the tribe’s casino, about 4 miles from the camp.
Pipeline opponents have vowed to maintain the camp through the winter. They believe the pipeline threatens the tribe’s drinking water, and cultural sites.
The Standing Rock tribe believes the 1,200-mile pipeline to transport North Dakota oil through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois threatens drinking water and cultural sites. Dallas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners has denied that and said the pipeline will be safe. The segment under Lake Oahe is the only remaining big chunk of construction.
Energy Transfer Partners slammed the decision as politically motivated and alleged that President Barack Obama’s administration was determined to delay the matter until he leaves office. The company is awaiting a decision from a federal judge it asked earlier to give it permission to drill under the lake.
A full environmental review, including alternate routes and spill risks, could take as long as a year, though that is considered unlikely under the Trump administration.
Once in office, Trump could move to cancel the full review and greenlight the project, but court cases remain pending and any move by the new administration is sure to face a legal challenge from one side or another.
The Army’s announcement likely delays the pipeline by at least several months but does not kill it, energy analysts said. While the company had hoped to begin piping oil next spring, the project is now likely to be delayed until summer or fall at the earliest, said Christi Tezak, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, a Washington-based research firm.
“I am hopeful President-elect Trump will reject the Obama administration’s shameful actions to deny this vital energy project,” American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard said in a statement late Sunday. The institute represents the U.S. oil and natural gas industry.
Trump supports construction of the pipeline, spokesman Jason Miller told The Associated Press on Monday, Dec. 5, but Miller wouldn’t say whether Trump would reverse the Army’s decision.
“We will review the full situation when we’re in the White House and make the appropriate determination at that time,” Miller said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.