US army 'to grant Dakota Access Pipeline permit' after Donald Trump signs executive order

The president signed an executive order opening the way for the pipeline

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Tuesday 07 February 2017 21:59 GMT
Picture: (AFP / Getty Images)

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An agency of the US government has said it will allow the $3.8bn North Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil beneath the Missouri River close to the site of indigenous American community - a move previously blocked after huge protests.

In December, the Army Corps of Engineers said it had turned down permission for the pipeline to pass under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the river.

The then Assistant Army Secretary for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, declined to issue permission for the crossing, saying a broader environmental study was warranted given the Standing Rock Sioux’s opposition.

What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?

The Corps launched a study of the crossing on January 18, just two days before Barack Obama left office, that could have taken up to two years to complete. However, the company building the 1,200-mile pipeline that will transfer oil from the Dakotas to a shipping point in Illinois, Energy Transfer Partners, said the decision was politically motivated.

President Donald Trump signed an executive action on January 24, telling the Corps to quickly reconsider Ms Darcy’s decision. He also made it easier for a separate company, TransCanada, to push ahead with another project, the Keystone XL pipeline.

Tom Goldtooth, Native American environmental activist, said the protests that swelled to include thousands of people at the site of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, would now be repeated.

“We’re telling President Trump he will not be able to have this pipeline without a fight,” he told The Independent. “Expect massive resistance. It will be like nothing he has seen before.”

He said thousands of people across the country, and millions around the world, had been moved by the plight of the protesters, who had fought not only for the safety of the reservation’s water source, but also for the civil rights of indigenous people.

He said the mechanism for the approval of such projects had been rolled back by Mr Trump. “The Standing Rock tribe is used to tyranny, and they are used to colonisation. They have been facing this for the last 500 years.”

Lawyer Jan Hasselman said the tribe would challenge the decision.

“The Obama administration correctly found that the tribe's treaty rights needed to be respected, and that the easement should not be granted without further review and consideration of alternative crossing locations,” he told the Associated Press.

“Trump's reversal of that decision continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian Tribes and violation of treaty rights. They will be held accountable in court.”

ETP has been poised to begin drilling under Lake Oahe as soon as it has approval. Workers have drilled entry and exit holes for the crossing, and oil has been put in the pipeline leading up to the lake in anticipation of finishing the project.

The news agency said that those protesting the pipeline at an encampment the tribe set up on federal land have at times clashed with police, leading to nearly 700 arrests. The camp’s population thinned to fewer than 300 as harsh winter weather arrived and as Standing Rock officials pleaded for the camp to disband before the spring flooding season.

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