Thursday 25th May, 2017
pro-pipeline-groups-expect-trump-to-take-prompt-action-as-army-corps-block-dakota-pipeline-project

NORTH DAKOTA, U.S. - On Sunday, a day before an evacuation order was to be implemented - protesters and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe heaved a sigh of relief as the U.S. Army Corps announced that it would not allow drilling under the Missouri River for completing the Dakota Access Pipeline project. It would instead look for alternative routes, it said. 

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do. The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement.

The $3.7 billion DAPL project became a major topic of discussion around the world as it could jeopardise indigenous activism and lead to environmental hazards. It drew protesters from all over America.

Over 3,000 protesters and more than 300 recognised Native American tribes gathered at the camp site to protest the project. Law and enforcement officers in order to push back protesters clashed with them and used tear gas, pepper spray and even water cannons in the below freezing temperature. 

The protesters were even bitten by guard dogs and shot with rubber bullets. Over 500 wounded peaceful protesters were hospitalised in course of the protest.

The pipeline is now set to undergo an environmental impact statement, meaning the project, which was near completion, will drag on for months. The project is not expected to finish under the Obama administration. But considering President-elect Donald Trump’s interest in the project and energy, he could reverse the decision taken by the Corps after assuming office on January 20.

However, the decision was welcomed by protesters and activists across the U.S. 

Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians, in a statement, said, “My hands go up to all the water protectors who have stood up to protect tribal treaty rights and to protect Mother Earth. Thank you for Standing for Standing Rock.”

Greenpeace, an environmental group’s spokesperson Lilian Molina praised the decision. She said, “The water protectors have done it. This is a monumental victory in the fight to protect indigenous rights and sovereignty.”

Dave Archambault II, the Standing Rock tribal Chairman too addressed supporters on Sunday afternoon and said, “It’s wonderful. You all did that. Your presence has brought the attention of the world. It’s time now that we move forward. We don’t have to stand and endure this hard winter. We can spend the winter with our families.”

Jon Eagle Sr, a member of the Standing Rock Tribe added, “I don’t know quite how to put into words how proud I am of our people. And I mean our people. I don’t just mean the indigenous people of this continent. I mean all the people who came to stand with us. And it’s a beautiful day. It’s a powerful day.”

Ken Many Wounds, who served as a tribal liaison, said that their prayers were answered after refusing to believe that at first. 

He said, “I cried. Our prayers have been answered. A lot of people didn’t believe that prayer was going to be the answer. But our people stayed together. In our hearts, we knew.”

The decision to delay the project has however been left it in a limbo. With uncertainty high, it is not decided if the project could resume soon or may not resume at all. 

Some fear Trump may give an order to resume work shortly after assuming charge and that an alternate route will also risk spillage that would destroy countless ecosystems on its way.

“It's not over. It's never over. They say one thing and do another,” a Standing Rock member said.

Lynn Currier, a Native American activist welcomed the decision but she said that the decision wouldn’t grant an easement for the oil pipeline to pass underneath Lake Oahe in southern North Dakota. 

She said, “We all know that we’re dealing with Donald Trump coming into office, so there’s still concern that he will try to flip it back when he comes in. I don’t know if the Army Corps would let him do that, but who knows how politics will play out?”

“It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe. This administration’s delay in taking action — after I’ve pushed the White House, Army Corps and other federal agencies for months to make a decision — means that today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project. The pipeline still remains in limbo,” said Senator Heidi Heidtkamp.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who opposed the DAPL project in light of the water contamination risk said, “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. We should not become more dependent on fossil fuel and accelerate the planetary crisis of climate change.”

However, the pro-Pipeline groups believed the decision would jeopardise the project and claimed that it was rejection of entire judicial and regulatory system.

“The Obama administration’s refusal to issue an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline violates the rule of law and fails to resolve the issue. Instead, it passes the decision off to the next administration, which has already indicated it will approve the easement, and in the meantime perpetuates a difficult situation for North Dakotans,” Senator John Hoeven said.

While, Governor Jack Dalrymple blamed the Obama administration and said it had committed a serious mistake. 

He said, “The decision today by the Obama Administration to further postpone any action on the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline is a serious mistake. It does nothing to resolve the issue, and worst of all it prolongs the serious problems faced by North Dakota law enforcement as they try to maintain public safety.”

Jay Timmons, president and CEO, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) said that the decision could derail the future of several other projects. 

He said, “If a project that has involved all relevant stakeholders and followed both the letter and spirit of the law at every step of this approval process can be derailed, what signal does that send to others considering building new energy infrastructure in this country?”

Pro-pipeline groups also expect that Trump will not delay the project further and hope to hear a final decision on it in January.  

Craig Stevens, spokesman for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, said, “With Trump set to take office in 47 days, we are hopeful that this is not the final word on the Dakota Access pipeline.”

Law enforcement officials meanwhile will continue to monitor the situation in the area as some of the protesters refuse to leave the site until a concrete decision is reached.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “In light of today’s decision by the Department of the Army regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Department of Justice will continue to monitor the situation in North Dakota in the days ahead, and we stand ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions.”

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