[News] Dakota pipeline operator to defy Obama and push on with final phase of drilling

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 9 12:01:26 EST 2016


  Dakota pipeline operator to defy Obama and push on with final phase of

Julia Carrie Wong 
<https://www.theguardian.com/profile/julia-carrie-wong> in Cannon Ball, 
North Dakota, and Sam Levin 
<https://www.theguardian.com/profile/sam-levin> in San Francisco

Tuesday 8 November 2016

The Dakota Access pipeline operator chose the day of the US presidential 
to announce that the final phase of its controversial construction 
project will begin in two weeks – marking a bold escalation in its 
response to the Native American protests.

Everything you need to know about the controversial pipeline that has 
become an international rallying cry for indigenous rights and climate 
change activism

Energy Transfer Partners, the company overseeing the North Dakota 
<https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/north-dakota> oil pipeline, has 
already completed construction up to the river that provides water to 
the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and announced on Tuesday it would soon 
begin drilling at the site.

The company said it would not halt construction, despite requests by 
federal agencies to delay the project as the US government reassesses 
permits and considers possible reroutes.

In a statement, Energy Transfer Partners said it was “mobilizing 
horizontal drilling equipment” in preparation for tunneling under Lake 
Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri river by the protest camps and Native 
American reservation. The corporation said it would be ready to start 
crossing the water in two weeks.

The announcement came on a quiet election day at the encampments built 
by members of the Standing Rock Sioux nation and other indigenous people 
in opposition to the pipeline.

After a string of clashes and mass arrests, rumors spread among 
activists that the pipeline, government and tribal leaders had 
negotiated a 30-day moratorium 
on both construction and protest or religious ceremonies on the “front 
lines” of the conflict.

“I’m in shock. I’m speechless,” said Cheryl Angel, a Sicangu Lakota 
tribe member who has been at the Standing Rock camps since the spring. 
“It’s unconscionable and devastating. It’s almost as though they have no 

The announcement presents the final phase of construction as a done 
deal, and will be seen as a clear illustration that the oil company is 
aggressively moving forward with the $3.7bn pipeline 
in defiance of Barack Obama 
and the thousands of demonstrators who are camped out at Standing Rock 
to fight the project.

Last week, Obama made his first remarks on the huge demonstrations since 
police arrested hundreds of unarmed protesters 
who call themselves “water protectors 
and say the pipeline is destroying sacred indigenous lands 

The president said the US army corps of engineers was exploring ways to 
“reroute” around Native American lands, and said the government was 
“going to let it play out for several more weeks, and determine whether 
or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive 
to the traditions of the first Americans”.

In September, the government said 
it would temporarily halt permits 
to dig on federal land near or under the Missouri river and requested 
that the company “voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 
miles east or west” of Lake Oahe.

Energy Transfer Partners ignored that request and continued 
construction, recently approaching within a few miles of the river 
causing widespread anger and sadness at the Standing Rock camps, which 
have been opposing the pipeline since April.

Tuesday’s statement does not address the requests from the government 
for a delay. On the contrary, it suggests that the company is not giving 
consideration to alternative routes or Obama’s recent remarks.

The US is waking up to a new president after Trump won a shock victory, 
and Hillary Clinton is making her concession speech this morning in New 

“Dakota Access previously received a permit from the army corps with 
respect the tunneling activities under Lake Oahe, and Dakota Access has 
all other regulatory approvals and land rights to complete the crossing 
of the Missouri river at Lake Oahe,” the statement said.

The army corps did not respond to requests for comment.

Asked about Obama’s comments, pipeline spokeswoman Vicki Granado told 
the Guardian: “We are not aware that any consideration is being given to 
a reroute, and we remain confident we will receive our easement in a 
timely fashion.”

The company’s announcement comes as North Dakota regulators are moving 
ahead with a formal complaint against the corporation 
for failing to properly disclose findings of Native American artifacts 
along the construction route.

Angel said the pipeline construction plan was “environmentally 
irresponsible” and “illegal” considering the army corps has yet to 
approve final permits. Noting that the Missouri river provided drinking 
water to millions, she added: “I’m in tears, because I can’t believe 
[the company] would do this to a whole group of people who don’t have 
any say.”

This past Sunday, more than a hundred water protectors used boats to 
ferry across the Cannonball river and attempted to climb “Turtle Island” 
– a portion of army corps land where tribal members say there are 11 
burial sites. Several tribal elders, including Darrel Killsinsight, 
implored everyone to return to the main camp, referencing the alleged 
30-day agreement.

But representatives of the tribe never officially confirmed that any 
such agreement was in place, and Tuesday’s statement flies in the face 
of any hope for a moratorium.

Jan Hasselman, the attorney representing the Standing Rock Sioux in its 
permit litigation, said that the statement from Dakota Access was 
probably a response to an army corps spokesman 
telling Bloomberg that the company had agreed to slow construction. But, 
she added, Dakota Access does not have all the permits it needs to begin 
drilling, including the easement.

“Starting construction without permits would be beyond the pale, even 
for Dakota Access,” Hasselman told the Guardian. “It is deeply 
irresponsible to keep putting investors’ money into this route when both 
the President and Senator Tim Kaine are openly discussing rerouting away 
from Lake Oahe.”

The timing of the announcement on election day instantly raised 
suspicion – and anger – among the activists gathered at Standing Rock. 
Activists have expressed frustration with the US presidential race, 
noting that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has refused 
to take a position on the conflict and GOP candidate Donald Trump has 
close financial ties to the pipeline 

“With the election being so big, and North Dakota being so small, they 
think they can just sweep this under the rug,” said Danny Grassrope, a 
member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. “I’m not really surprised. Snakes 
are sneaky, and this is a black snake. It blindsides everyone.”

He added: “A lot of people are going to get angry, and this is where we 
need to stay positive. We need prayers more than ever now.”

The protesters were also disappointed that Obama has not condemned the 
highly militarized police force in North Dakota, which has arrested more 
than 400 people 
and deployed Mace, Tasers, rubber bullets and army tanks to respond to 

A UN group is also investigating claims of inhumane jail treatment 
and other human rights abuses by law enforcement.

“Are indigenous people so invaluable that now that Dakota Access is to 
the water, does it not matter to anyone that people are going to start 
laying down their lives?” asked Eryn Wise, a member of the Jicarilla 
Apache and Laguna Pueblo tribes.

“I think that people need to seriously question the integrity of the 
work produced by DAPL right now, because they’re rushing,” Wise added. 
“Is it safe when they’ve been rushing like this?”

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