Federal government calls a halt to North Dakota Pipeline

In a victory the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is calling “a game changer,” three Federal agencies effectively blocked the construction of a pipeline at Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

The agencies, which operate under the direction of the Obama administration – the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior – issued a joint statement [reproduced below] calling for a pause in the pipeline construction around the Lake.

The Tribe’s Facebook post today   also pointed positively to the statement’s call for establishing consultation with Tribes for future construction projects.

This week, near Cannonball, N. D., pipeline protestors – Tribe members and their allies – were attacked by dogs and thugs employed by Energy Transfer Partners, the company that owns the North Dakota pipeline project called Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Perhaps in response, the three-agency statement used unusually eloquent language to laud “the thousands of peaceful demonstrators who exercised their First Amendment Rights to voice their heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites.”

The Tribe reported in its Facebook post that it is looking into filing for an injunction to force DAPL to stop construction.

 Joint Agency statement:

“We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act.  However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain.  Therefore, the Department of the Army, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior will take the following steps.

The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.  Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.  The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved – including the pipeline company and its workers – deserves a clear and timely resolution.  In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.

“Furthermore, 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.  Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:  (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.

“Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely.  We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.  Of course, anyone who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state, or local authorities.  The Departments of Justice and the Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local, and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protest, and maintain public safety.

“In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites.  It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”

Standing Rock Sioux Facebook post:

The federal court ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe today but, in a stunning move, three federal agencies have blocked the pipeline at Lake Oahe pending a thorough review and reconsideration of the process. In a joint press release, the Department of Justice, Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior said that they will not allow the pipeline to be built on U.S. Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe. The agencies requested that Dakota Access voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of the lake. They also set the stage for a nationwide reform, establishing consultation with tribes regarding the need for meaningful tribal input for all pipeline projects in the future. This federal statement is a game changer for the Tribe and we are acting immediately on our legal options, including filing an appeal and a temporary injunction to force DAPL to stop construction.

Photo: Tusweca Mendoza, 10, of Arlington, Va., originally from Pine Ridge, S.D., holds up a sign outside U.S. District Court in Washington, Sept. 6, as members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have asked a federal judge to temporarily stop work on parts of the Dakota Access Pipeline to prevent the destruction of sacred and culturally significant sites near Lake Oahe. Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP


CONTRIBUTOR

Roberta Wood
Roberta Wood

Roberta Wood writes for People's World from deep experience in working class issues. She is a retired journeyman instrument mechanic and member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Wood was also a steelworker in South Chicago, an officer of Steelworkers Local 65 and founding co-chair of the USWA District 31 Women's Caucus.

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