Stunning turn in Dakota Access Pipeline debate

(PHOTO: Paulann Egelhoff, Flick CC)

A flag seen at a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Phoenix, Arizona. Protesters around the country held rallies in support of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has camped out in protest of the pipeline, which it says will bisect the source of the Standing Rock reservation’s water. (PHOTO: Paulann Egelhoff, Flick CC)

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would deny the current easement request for the Dakota Access Pipeline, instead seeking alternative routes.

Protesters supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the pipeline — which would have crossed the band’s water source, Lake Oahe — celebrated Sunday’s news as an unexpected triumph.

For months, peaceful protesters have engaged in a tense showdown with public and private security forces. That standoff looked to escalate this week. Officials sought to block supply routes to the protesters’ permanent camp. There were also fears of a forced evacuation of the camp. Meanwhile, cold winter conditions have begun to move into the upper Midwest, causing concern for the wellbeing of the protesters.

Instead, word spread across the Standing Rock camp today that the U.S. government had heard their message and agreed that more research was needed.

The Dakota Access Pipeline proposal seeks to send light crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to existing pipeline infrastructure in Illinois.

North Dakota crude arrives by rail in Louisiana. (PHOTO: Roy Luck, Flickr CC)

North Dakota crude arrives by rail in St. James, Louisiana. (PHOTO: Roy Luck, Flickr CC)

This move again frustrates oil companies operating in the western Dakotas, as well the state’s governor and leading officials. Currently the state ships crude oil to refineries across the country via rail. Pipeline supporters say that’s more expensive and less safe than a better network of pipelines.

In general, new pipelines from North Dakota have met controversy as they’ve tried to go east. Earlier this year, Enbridge backed off plans for the Sandpiper Pipeline from North Dakota to the Calumet Refinery in Superior, Wisconsin.

Importantly, this is not “the end” for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers said it wants to see the pipeline re-routed around the sensitive areas cited by the Standing Rock Sioux. The debate over whether and how to ship oil to refineries remains unchanged.

Further, President-elect Trump has voiced support for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The project might find more favorable political winds next year.

Nevertheless, this is a remarkable turn of events for the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies. Ojibwa bands here in Minnesota had offered financial and logistical support to Standing Rock. Nothing seems to have united native people around the country like this cause.

Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II offered a statement in a story that appeared in the London Daily Mail:

‘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 do the right thing.

‘The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will forever be grateful to the Obama administration for this historic decision.’


  1. *like*

  2. David Gray says

    This strikes me as a gesture of short duration from a departing administration.

  3. 💧Mni Wiconi! ✊😊

  4. So isn’t protecting the Lake Superior watershed from sulfide mining pollution also important?

  5. This is the same tribe that voted against allowing the University of North Dakota to keep the honorable Fighting Sioux logo causing the tribe to lose millions in revenue. They’re in dire need for the Sioux version of “Trump change”.

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