Obama Calls for Rerouting Dakota Oil Pipeline; GOP Vows to Retaliate
December 5, 2016 NBC News & Caroline Kenny and Gregory Krieg / CNN
Celebrations, tears of joy, chanting and drumming rang out among thousands of protesters at the Standing Rock site after the Army Corp of Engineers announced it will look for an alternate route for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
Dakota Access Pipeline To Be Rerouted Caroline Kenny and Gregory Krieg / CNN
(December 4, 2016) -- Celebrations, tears of joy, chanting and drumming rang out among thousands of protesters at the Standing Rock site after the Army Corp of Engineers announced it will look for an alternate route for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
For months, members of the Sioux tribe and their supporters have camped out, fighting the pipeline they say could be hazardous and damage the water supply of their reservation nearby.
"People have said that this is a make it or a break it, and I guess we made it," Chief Arvol Looking Horse, Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, announced to a cheering crowd of protesters.
Tribal leaders worry the decision to change direction may not be permanent, especially with the incoming Trump administration.
Grassroots activists, who have turned the protest site into a mini-city, prepared to withstand freezing temperatures during what was expected to be an even lengthier standoff, were cautious about the scope and durability of their victory.
"I'm really happy that I'm here to witness it and celebrate with a lot of my elders and the youth, but I think that we also need to keep in mind that we need to be ready to keep going," said protester Morning Star Angeline Chippewa-Freeland.
"We are asking our supporters to keep up the pressure, because while President Obama has granted us a victory today, that victory isn't guaranteed in the next administration," Dallas Goldtooth, lead organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a statement. "More threats are likely in the year to come, and we cannot stop until this pipeline is completely and utterly defeated, and our water and climate are safe."
Easement denied. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe grateful to Obama. #NoDAPL. December 4, 2016. Pamela Sue
Why Reroute the Pipeline?
The Army Corps of Engineers said it will not grant a permit to allow the proposed pipeline to cross under the lake. Officials said after discussion with the tribe and Dakota Access it became clear that more work had to be done on the project.
"The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing," The corps' assistant secretary for civil works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, said in a statement.
The decision comes three weeks after her office announced it was delaying the decision after protests from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters.
Darcy said the consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an environmental impact statement with full public input and analysis, delivering both an immediate reprieve and political statement that could aid in future showdowns with President-elect Donald Trump's incoming administration.
Pipeline Supporters Speak Out
North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican, said last week after a meeting with the transition team that Trump supported completing the 1,172-mile long proposed pipeline, that would transport 470,000 barrels of oil a day across four states. A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday's decision.
House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted his criticism, calling the intervention "big-government decision-making at its worst. I look forward to putting this anti-energy presidency behind us."
North Dakota's sole member in the House of Representatives, Rep. Kevin Cramer, a Republican, pledged to fight on and slammed President Obama.
"I hoped even a lawless President wouldn't continue to ignore the rule of law. However, it was becoming increasingly clear he was punting this issue down the road," Cramer wrote in a statement. "Today's unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country."
Opponents Ready for Next Fight
The decision by the Corps of Engineers would be useful in a court challenge, according to Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice staff attorney representing the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
"If the incoming administration tries to undo this and jam the pipeline through despite the need for an analysis of alternatives, we will certainly be prepared to challenge that in court," he said. "It's not so simple for one government administration to simply reverse the decisions of the former one."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who actively opposed the pipeline, praised the administration's decision.
"I appreciate very much President Obama listening to the Native American people and millions of others who believe this pipeline should not be built," Sanders, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement. "In the year 2016, we should not continue to trample on Native American sovereignty. We should not endanger the water supply of millions of people."
May Boeve, the executive director leading environmental action group 350.org, celebrated the decision but also sounded a warning against any future plans to reverse it.
"If Trump tries to go up against the leaders at Standing Rock he'll just end up looking petty and small," she said. "The fight against Dakota Access has fired up a resistance movement that is ready to take on any fossil fuel project the Trump administration tries to approve. On Dakota Access and every other pipeline: If he tries to build it, we will come."
From Threat of Removal to Celebration
Earlier this week, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple ordered the protesters to leave the campsite by Monday, citing the harsh weather conditions as a reason why they needed to decamp. The US Army Corps of Engineers had warned that come Monday, activists who refused to leave the campsite could be arrested, then backtracked, saying the agency had no plans to forcibly remove those who stay.
Instead of backing away, the protesters came out in full force and showed no signs of backing down, even inviting over 2,000 veterans to join their already robust presence. Now with a victory for the Sioux tribe and their supporters, Standing Rock has become a protest symbol.
CNN's Sara Sidner, Barbara Starr, Susanna Capelouto and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.
The Congresswoman Who Stood with Standing Rock: Tulsi Gabbard Will Deploy With Fellow Vets to Stand With Standing Rock John Nichols / The Nation
(December 1, 2016) -- Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, the Hawaii Democrat who served two tours of duty in the Middle East, and who continues to serve as a major in the Army National Guard, will join thousands of veterans next week as they arrive to support Native Americans who are seeking to block construction of an oil pipeline near North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
"If my participation in this protest helps send one message, it is this: We must protect our fragile water resources for current and future generations," says Gabbard, who since her youth has been an environmental activist.
The congresswoman will be part of a December 4-7 "Veterans Stand With Standing Rock" mobilization that proposes to bring military veterans from across the country to North Dakota at the same time that state officials are stepping up efforts to remove pipeline foes from the camp they have organized as part of their Water Protectors movement.
"I'm participating in Dakota Access Pipeline protest because of the threat this project poses to water resources."
The objections raised by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its allies to the Dakota Access Pipeline have captured the attention of indigenous activists and climate-change campaigners from across the country and around the world; and the corporate interests that are seeking to complete the pipeline have made little secret of their frustration with the protests.
Now state officials are telling members of the tribe that they must leave. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has issued an evacuation order for the sprawling campsite where Native Americans from many tribes have gathered to protect sacred lands and the region's water supply.
The Army Corps of Engineers has announced plans to take steps on December 5 to close off access to the camp. But tribal leaders say they intend to remain in place at what has been described as "the largest gathering of Indian people in North America in the past century."
More than 2,000 veterans have indicated that they will join a nonviolent intervention to protect and support the foes of the pipeline from what organizers of the mobilization describe as "assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force."
Authorities have used mass arrests, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and water cannons to deter protests. They have also arrested journalists and documentary filmmakers seeking to report from the scene.
Gabbard's office says she accepted an invitation from organizers to join the veterans who are standing at Standing Rock.
In particular, she says, she wants to draw attention to threats to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's water supply, as well as the water supply of people living in communities downstream from where the pipeline would cross underneath the Missouri River.
"I'm participating in the Dakota Access Pipeline protest because of the threat this project poses to water resources in four states serving millions of people," says the congresswoman, who has a long record of environmental activism.
"Whether it's the threat to essential water sources in this region, the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan, or the threat posed to a major Hawaii aquifer by the Red Hill fuel leak, each example underscores the vital importance of protecting our water resources."
Earlier this year, Gabbard broke with Democratic Party leaders to support the insurgent presidential campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, another critic of the 1,170-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. Gabbard is calling on President Obama to "do the right thing and stop this pipeline project before water resources for millions are forever ruined."
Sanders says the president should "Tell the Army Corps of Engineers that we know -- we don't need any more studies to know -- that in the midst of a great crisis, a global crisis with regard to climate change, every environmental study will tell you: Do not build this pipeline. And if there are other approaches, such as declaring Standing Rock a federal monument, let's do that."
"For hundreds of years, the Native American people in our country, the first Americans, have been lied to, have been cheated, and their sovereign rights have been denied them," argues the senator. "[It] is time for a new approach to the Native American people, not to run a pipeline through their land."
John Nichols is The Nation's national-affairs correspondent. He is the co-author, with Robert W. McChesney, of People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy, published in March 2016 by Nation Books.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.