Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Liz Miller
Observer Staff Writer 

Dakota Access: U.S Government Temporarily Blocks Construction

Construction Halted on Federal Lands; Oil Company asked to Suspend Work Nearby


September 12, 2016

Sacred sites and burial grounds lay on the Dakota Access Route.

Protests across the country brought in a small victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their many supporters when the U.S. government promised to temporarily halt all construction on government owned land.

Hundreds gathered in cities as far away as Denver and Tulsa to protest the fast-track approval given to Energy Transfer Partners and their subsidiary Dakota Access, LLC. Evidence indicates that approval sidestepped appropriate consultation with affected Tribes, as well as historical preservation requirements and environmental assessments.

The pipeline is planned to go under the Missouri River, the only water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington rejected a request for a court order to stop the project, but the government blocked construction in a response to growing opposition.

Dakota Access made the bizarre decision last Saturday to leap ahead of their obvious construction route and sneak in on a holiday weekend to destroy a sacred site and burial ground that were due to be assessed by the North Dakota Preservation Office. When Native American "Water Protectors" from the nearby protest camp marched in to stop the destruction, they were attacked by a private mercenary security team armed with mace and dogs.

After five months of peaceful protest, the Sacred Stone Camp finally got attention from the national media.

Thousands of protesters have gathered at the camp, representing as many as 200 tribes from across North America.

"This case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes' views on these types of infrastructure projects," the U.S. Departments of Justice, Army and Interior said in a joint statement released minutes after Boasberg's ruling.

After Judge Boasberg said in his ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to fast-track the pipeline project was not illegal, tribal leaders quickly filed a notice of appeal.

In their joint statement, the three U.S. departments said they would schedule meetings with Native American leaders to discuss how the federal government can better consider the tribes' views and respect their land. They also said they respect protesters' rights to assemble and speak freely.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would halt construction on its property until after officials can re-examined Native American concerns about the pipeline as well as some previous projects.

The Corps called on Dakota Access to halt work on other land, as well, but as of Friday afternoon Dakota Access has not said whether it would comply with the request.

Amnesty International has sent a human rights observer delegation to monitor the gathering of Indigenous rights defenders and police response.

The Dakota Access pipeline is meant to carry crude oil from the Bakken shale, a vast oil formation in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada, directly to the U.S. Gulf.

It would span from just north of land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to Illinois, where it would connect with an existing pipeline.

Across the several states affected, Dakota Access has also faced protests from landowners who object to the use of eminent domain to force the sale of privately owned lands. Some of the farmlands at issue have been owned and operated by the same families for generations.

Arrests were made in Iowa at a landowners' protest last week.

ETP stock shares fell 3.6 percent to close at $39.14 on Friday.

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