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Federal government blocks Dakota Access oil pipeline route

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Law enforcement vehicles line a road leading to a blocked bridge next to the Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. ]

CANNON BALL, N.D. >> U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday that it won’t grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota, handing a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters, who argued the project would threaten a water source and cultural sites.

North Dakota’s leaders criticized the decision, with Gov. Jack Dalrymple calling it a “serious mistake” that “prolongs the dangerous situation” of having several hundred protesters who are camped out on federal land during cold, wintry weather. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer saying it’s a “very chilling signal” for the future of infrastructure in the United States.

The four-state, $3.8 billion project is largely complete except for the now-blocked segment underneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that her decision was based on the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline’s crossing.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, had said it was unwilling to reroute the project. It and the Morton County Sheriff’s Office, which has done much of the policing of the protests, didn’t have immediate comment.

U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the Corps’ “thoughtful approach … ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts.”

Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault didn’t immediately respond to messages left seeking comment.

The federal government has ordered people to leave the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, encampment on Army Corps of Engineers’ land by Monday. But demonstrators say they’re prepared to stay, and authorities say they won’t forcibly remove them.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Department of Justice will “continue to monitor the situation” and stands “ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions.”

“The safety of everyone in the area – law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike – continues to be our foremost concern,” she added.

Earlier Sunday, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said tribal elders had asked the military veterans not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, adding the group is there to help out those who’ve dug in against the project.

About 250 veterans gathered about a mile from the main camp for a meeting with organizer Wes Clark Jr., the son of former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. The group had said about 2,000 veterans were coming, but it wasn’t clear how many actually arrived.

“We have been asked by the elders not to do direct action,” Wes Clark Jr. said. He then talked about North Dakota authorities’ decision to move away from a key bridge north of the encampment by 4 p.m. Sunday if demonstrators agree to certain conditions, saying the National Guard and law enforcement have armored vehicles and are armed.

“If we come forward, they will attack us,” Clark said. Instead, he told the veterans, “If you see someone who needs help, help them out.”

Authorities said they’ll move from the north end of the Backwater Bridge if protesters stay south of it and come to the bridge only if there is a prearranged meeting. Authorities also asked protesters not to remove barriers on the bridge, which they have said was damaged in the late October conflict that led to several people being hurt, including a serious arm injury.

“The question was asked if we would consider pulling back from the Backwater Bridge,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said in a Saturday news release after a conversation between law enforcement and the group’s organizers, “and the answer is yes! We want this to de-escalate.”

Protesters also are not supposed to walk, ride or fly drones north of the bridge, Laney said. Any violation will “will result in their arrest,” the statement said.

The bridge blockade is something that Archambault has been asking to be removed, the Bismarck Tribune reports , and something he said he would to talk to Dalrymple about when they meet in person. A date for that meeting hasn’t been set.

Veterans Stand for Standing Rock’s GoFundMe.com page had raised more than $1 million of its $1.2 million goal by Sunday — money due to go toward food, transportation and supplies. Cars waiting to get into the camp Sunday afternoon were backed up for more than a half-mile.

“People are fighting for something, and I thought they could use my help,” said Navy veteran and Harvard graduate student Art Grayson. The 29-year-old from Cambridge, Massachusetts, flew the first leg of the journey, then rode from Bismarck in the back of a pickup truck. He has finals this week, but told professors, “I’ll see you when I get back.”

Steven Perry, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran who’s a member of the Little Traverse Bay band of Odawa Indians in Michigan, spoke of one of the protesters’ main concerns: that the pipeline could pollute drinking water. “This is not just a native issue,” he said, “This is an issue for everyone.”

Art Woodson and two other veterans drove 17 hours straight from Flint, Michigan, a city whose lead-tainted water crisis parallels with the tribe’s fight over water, he said.

“We know in Flint that water is in dire need,” the 49-year-old disabled Gulf War Army veteran said. “In North Dakota, they’re trying to force pipes on people. We’re trying to get pipes in Flint for safe water.”

On Monday, some veterans will take part in a prayer ceremony in which they’ll apologize for historical detrimental conduct by the military toward Native Americans and ask for forgiveness, Clark said. He also called the veterans’ presence “about right and wrong and peace and love.”

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      • He sold it, but you’ll still think that he owns it. Typical response to an article that should be about how weak @ur government is. Obama just pulled an Ive. Sure hope we won’t have to go another 10 years before this pipeline is finished NEXT TO sacred tribal land.

    • Trump is an embarrassment to this country and is already selling out the white working class who got duped. And yes, Obama saved the day here by using common sense: Look for an alternative route for the pipeline. Will it be more expensive? Sure. But it should have been designed with indigenous rights and safety in mind in the first place. Oil is so passe anyway. Alternative energy is the future.

      • Uhhhh Alternative energy is the future. Which means not for this decade and most of the next. So you will have to use gasoline to run your car, natural gas for home heating and cooking, electricity for all others.

        So laughable these weak of mind protesters who drive their gasoline powered cars and use oil. Uhhhh where do you think this comes from?

        Give me a break.

        • Working class people need water to drink too you know. Just ask the people of Flint — not having clean water to bathe in, drink, cook with, etc. gets extremely expensive, unhealthy and inconvenient to say the least.

        • Actually, there’s no money to be made with most alternative energy like there is with fossil fuels. Corporations can control the price of oil to drive the market. Do some research and you will find that most of these corporations have large investments in wind energy and solar energy, just not in the United States. Why?

    • There hasn’t been any MSM coverage to speak of. And even when it did creep into AP, etc. most coverage has been horribly slanted and one-sided up – until now; none of it from the protector’s side. NO MSM station covered the brutal attacks on the water protectors. Only someone who actually cares about what’s going on there, knows. The rest of the country could give a flying f what else is done to Native Americans.

  • Decision made based on pure politics. Transporting oil by pipeline is safer, cheaper and more efficient than alternatives such as by rail or by truck.

    • Why did they reroute it away from Bismarck? They said for fear of contaminating their water supply. If its so safe then why the need to divert it through Native American ancestral lands? They don’t seem to have the same concerns over the Native American water supply. #MAGA

      • There are over 400 wells under the river and waters of the Garrison dam, but the rioters don’t mention them because the local tribes get oil royalty money from them. Another thing, how come the rioters don’t protest the pollution from the casinos and traffic to and from the casinos. They just want to riot over one triple walled pipe that’s not going to break. As for them so-called veterans, I wonder what kind of discharges they got.

        • IRT 962042015: I think they might be alright with the self inflected problems that come from their casinos and traffic to these casinos. Their problems come with outside influences taking a crap on them just because they can. Again, if it’s not going to break then why divert it from Bismarck?

        • IRT NanakuliBoss: That’s exactly it, they weren’t willing to gamble on the failure if it was under Bismarck, but they are willing to gamble when it’s under Native land.

          Just like Waimanalo Gulch, they are willing to gamble because it’s on the Westside, they weren’t willing to gamble anywhere else on the island though.

  • Trump is going to wait till he gets into power. He can dictate who is in control of the army of engineers and he will have the government on his side. You won a 2-5 month reprieve. If you leave that camp you will never get back there!

  • For whatever reasons, it is wrong to stop a 1200 mile $3.8 billion project that is “largely complete”. The government should have reviewed the entire project from its initial planning stages and worked with the constructors from day one to make it a success. This is another example of why things cost so much more than it should – incompetent government people.

    • There is an environmental review process which includes seeking input from the public. Permits that include addressing possible contamination must have been obtained for the work to have started. Having said this, the ‘public’ or special interest group decided to protest during construction instead of during the review and permitting process. So depending on your perspective, you could say the ‘public’ can protest but the ‘developer’ has the right to address the late concerns or continue on with the project since they have gone thru the process which includes public comments. It’s kind of like getting a building permit and having your house about 90% finished but you have to stop because folks are complaining. And yup, government isn’t efficient. It’s not organized or managed that way.

  • Now that it’s done, the protesters can pack up and get in their cars and hit the paved roads to go home. If they traveled from afar, they can catch their jets to where they came from to protest. They can all go back to their comfortable heated homes and reflect on what a wonderful thing they did to stop a more efficient way to transport oil that they despise, but use with regularity and which helped them protest.

  • Congrats to the water protectors of Standing Rock. I would be vigilant though because the U.S. Government has a long standing history of breaking treaties, agreements and laws when it comes to the indigenous people of this country. As a veteran I am proud that many vets stood shoulder to shoulder with the Protectors. Kudos to Jill Stein, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard for showing up and speaking out in support of the protestors and water rights.

  • The route of the pipeline was moved from its initial location near Bismarck (near lots of white people who protested its location) to an area near the tribal reservation, where there are essentially no white people. Hmmmmm…..

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