Editor’s Note: This is only temporary, and probably just a ploy to get the protesters to go home so they can finish the mostly-completed pipeline, but still… it’s a victory nonetheless.
After months of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota, among others, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today effectively shut down the project by refusing to approve the last remaining permit required to complete a segment running under Lake Oahe. Per Reuters, the permit denial was heavily celebrated by protesters in Cannon Ball, North Dakota but means that Energy Transfer Partners will have to go back to the drawing board to identify a new route for the last segment of the 1,172 mile pipeline that is largely already complete.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Sunday it turned down a permit for a controversial pipeline project running through North Dakota, in a victory for Native Americans and climate activists who have protested against the project for several months.
A celebration erupted at the main protest camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others have been protesting the 1,172-mile (1,885-km) Dakota Access Pipeline for months.
The line, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, had been complete except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.
That stretch required an easement from federal authorities, which delayed a decision on the permit twice, in an effort to consult further with the tribe.
“The Army will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record,” a statement from the U.S. Army said.
Army denies Dakota pipeline permit, in victory for Native tribes https://t.co/MnHszTAaaB
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) December 4, 2016
As the Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II noted, the tribe will be eternally grateful for Obama’s last parting blow to the oil industry.
In a statement, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II thanked activists for their support in the protest effort.
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision,” he said.
“We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement.”
— Kelly Hayes (@MsKellyMHayes) December 4, 2016
Meanwhile, Energy Transfer Partners will now be forced to either find a new route or hope that the Trump administration will reconsider the federal easement required to finish construction.
It is unclear what the pipeline route will be, however, and any route would still likely need to cross the Missouri River, probably upstream of Lake Oahe and closer to the state capital of Bismarck. Many pipelines travel under U.S. waterways already, and pipe is considered a safer way to transport crude oil than rail.
North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, nodded to the fact that next steps remain unclear, saying in a statement Sunday that the pipeline “still remains in limbo.”
What is also unclear as well is whether the incoming administration of Donald Trump may consider taking up Energy Transfer Partners’ request yet again, and approving it. Trump’s transition team last week said that he was supportive of the line, in addition to other pipeline development.
“We’re hopeful that when the Trump administration takes office it will look at all of the priorities it has and that putting at risk the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux isn’t on their list,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.
As we noted a few days ago, Trump has expressed support for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline though his support has been complicated by his personal investments in Energy Transfer Partners. Maybe it’s the cynic in us, but we find it curious that, after sitting silent on this issue for months, the Obama administration, with just a few weeks left in office, would now decide to take definitive action on this issue…just a little parting gift for Trump.
Meanwhile, Paul Ryan, who has been cozying up to the Trump administration in recent weeks, tweeted this moments after the announcement: “This is big-government decision-making at its worst. I look forward to putting this anti-energy presidency behind us.”
This is big-government decision-making at its worst. I look forward to putting this anti-energy presidency behind us. https://t.co/Qu0nFTmGZv
— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 5, 2016
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