It’s About The Water

For months now Native American and First Nation tribes from Canada have been protesting the $3.8 billion pipeline that would carry Bakken crude oil across four states, a portion of which has raised environmental and safety concerns from several federal agencies. Last week the protest turned violent at the Standing Rock site when the company suddenly began construction at the site destroying sacred burial sites. Hundreds of protesters rushed to the site where the company had brought in security forces who attacked the protesters with dogs and pepper spray:

On September 3, the Dakota Access pipeline company attacked Native Americans with dogs and pepper spray as they protested against the $3.8 billion pipeline’s construction. If completed, the pipeline would carry about 500,000 barrels of crude per day from North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield to Illinois. The project has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and members of nearly 100 more tribes from across the U.S. and Canada.

The tribes went to court on Sunday and Tuesday a federal court judge issued a partial restraining order that was a two edged sword:

U.S. Judge James Boasberg said on Tuesday he had granted in part and denied in part the temporary restraining order, and that he would decide by Friday whether to grant the tribes’ larger challenge to the pipeline, which would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw permits for the project. [..]

Dakota Access agreed to halt activity until Friday in an area representing about half the total space requested in the tribes’ temporary restraining order.

It did not include ancient burial and prayer sites recently discovered by a historic preservation officer for the tribe, Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux, told a news conference on Tuesday.

When he Army Corps of Engineers approved the pipeline, they dismissed the concerns about the threats to the water supply and sacred heritage sites.

Senior officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two other federal agencies raised serious environmental and safety objections to the North Dakota section of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, the same objections being voiced in a large protest by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that has so far succeeded in halting construction.

But those concerns were dismissed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which relied on an environmental assessment prepared by the pipeline’s developer, Dakota Access LLC, when it approved the project in July, according to public documents.

The 1,134-mile pipeline would carry approximately 500,000 barrels of crude per day from North Dakota to Illinois along a route that did not originally pass near the Standing Rock reservation, the documents show. After the company rerouted the pipeline to cross the Missouri River just a half-mile upstream of the reservation, the tribe complained that the Army Corps did not consider threats to its water supply and cultural heritage.

The EPA, the Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation echoed those concerns in public comments on the Army Corps’ draft environmental assessment.  Citing risks to water supplies, inadequate emergency preparedness, potential impacts to the Standing Rock reservation and insufficient environmental justice analysis, the agencies urged the Army Corps to issue a revised draft of their environmental assessment.

The Missouri River is the main source of water for the over 8,000 residents of the Standing Rock reservation.

The battle to stop this pipeline is also being fought by other groups and in other states that the pipeline will cross. What began as a legal battle has now become a movement.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has called on the United States to provide the tribe a “fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process to resolve this serious issue and to avoid escalation into violence and further human rights abuses.” More than 200 Native American tribes have declared their support, and many have sent food and other supplies.

On social media, activists have used the #noDAPL hashtag to spread information about the protest and provide live video feeds from the campsite and from protests. Actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Shailene Woodley, Rosario Dawson and Susan Sarandon have offered to support the tribe’s efforts.

Environmentalists also have joined the fray, hoping to halt construction of the pipeline and make it go the way of the Keystone XL pipeline, which ultimately was killed by an order from President Obama last year. [..]

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein toured the area and met with protesters Tuesday. Speaking at a campfire meeting in the evening, she called on Obama to “take back this illegitimate permit given by the Army Corps of Engineers.”

Neither Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton nor GOP nominee Donald Trump has stated a position on the pipeline.