Today at 4pm, the Obama Administration announced that the US Army Corps would not grant Dakota Access LLC the last remaining easement it needs to drill under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe and complete construction of the pipeline. The US Army Corps statement implies they will conduct a limited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the river crossing and explore possibilities for alternative routes.
The Obama Administration’s decision comes as thousands of veterans are arriving from across the country to stand with the water protectors and join the frontlines of resistance in the face of extreme and escalating violence at the hands of law enforcement.
While this is clearly a victory, the battle is not “over”. A response statement from Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics said the corporations remain “fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”
The Trump administration could easily approve the project early next year. The Obama Administration has never guaranteed the water protectors or the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that they would use force to stop Dakota Access from drilling under the river without a permit, if necessary. The Army Corps has not yet agreed to pursue a full EIS for the entire length of the pipeline.
Organizers continue to call for every day of December to be “a day of #NoDAPL action” against the investors of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Over 100 solidarity actions worldwide have already been registered for the coming weeks as the encampment continues to stand their ground.
Tara Houska, National Campaigns Director of Honor the Earth says, “The original peoples of these lands fought with all of our hearts against injustice and won. We have been maced, tased, demeaned, hit with water cannons in below freezing temperatures, we stand with the strength of our ancestors before us. The inaction from the administration and media was answered by our refusal to back down. Let this send a message around the world: we are still here. We are empowered. We are not sacrifice zones. Mni wiconi, water is life.”
Eryn Wise of the International Indigenous Youth Council says, “We've been fighting this fight our whole lives and now there is no doubt in our minds that our generation can change the future. We know that the next presidency stands to jeopardize our work but we are by no means backing down. We will continue protecting everywhere we go and we will continue to stand for all our relations. We say Lila wopila to everyone who has supported the resurgence of indigenous nations. This is just the beginning.”
Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network says, “Today, the Obama Administration has told us they are not granting the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline. This is not just an amazing victory for Standing Rock and the Oceti Sakowin -- but also for the many other Tribal Nations, grassroots Indigenous communities and millions of Americans around the country who have stood in solidarity with us here in person, at rallies around the country, and through phone calls and letters. This is a victory for organizing, and it doesn't stop now. 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. 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.”
LaDonna Allard, Director of the Sacred Stone Camp, says, “I was asked, “When do you consider this pipeline issue to be over?” I said, when every pipe is out of the ground and the earth is repaired across the United States. I am not negotiating, I am got backing down. I must stand for our grandchildren and for the water.”
Here are the 10 questions we need to be asking in the days and weeks ahead:
1. Will the Army Corps actually conduct an Environmental Impact Statement? If so, on what portion of the project - just the river crossing, or the whole pipeline?
2. What issues will the EIS take into account? (for example, will it include an analysis of spill risk? how about sacred sites? will it reassess the economic need for the pipeline now that the bakken is busting?)
3. Which alternative routes will be considered? Will a "no-build" option also be considered?
4. How long will the EIS take?
5. What input will the tribe have? What will the public participation process look like?
6. In what way(s) was the original Environmental Assessment prepared by the Army Corps deemed inadequate?
7. What was the result of the tribal consultation process exploring possible changes to the regulatory process for pipelines in general? have any changes been proposed?
8. How easily will these decisions be reversed by a Trump administration?
9. How will these decisions be affected by the outcomes of DAPL's lawsuit against the Army Corps, scheduled to be heard on Friday?
10. Is the US government prepared to use force to stop the company from drilling under the river without a permit, if necessary?