|The raised fist of Krystal Two Bulls at a peaceful protest in Bismarck, North Dakota in September. Source: National Geographic|
Article by: Nysha Tan
After signing a memorandum on Tuesday, Donald Trump has given the Dakota Access Pipeline approval to continue constructing, even after almost a year-long protest from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and many other Native people. This decision has basically undone what the previous Obama Administration’s had requested: for the Dakota Access Company to pause construction in order to further review if the pipeline follows federal law--especially the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law requiring federal agencies to report findings from their environmental assessment and statements of potential threat to the environment before approving a project.
The document is available for public viewing. Below is a transcript of the first page:
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY SUBJECT:
Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline
Section 1. Policy.
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) under development by Dakota Access, LLC, represents a substantial, multi-billion-dollar private investment in our Nation's energy infrastructure. This approximately 1,100-mile pipeline is designed to carry approximately 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to oil markets in the United States. At this time, the DAPL is more than 90 percent complete across its entire route. Only a limited portion remains to be constructed. I believe that construction and operation of lawfully permitted pipeline infrastructure serve the national interest. Accordingly, pursuant to the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct as follows:
Sec. 2. Directives.
(a) Pipeline Approval Review. The Secretary of the Army shall instruct the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), including the Commanding General and Chief of Engineers, to take all actions necessary and appropriate to:
(i) review and approve in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, and with such conditions as are necessary or appropriate, requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas under section 28 of the Mineral Leasing Act, as amended, 30 U.S.C. 185; permits or approvals under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344; permits or approvals under section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, 33 U.S.C. 408; and such other Federal approvals as may be necessary;
(ii) consider, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, whether to rescind or modify the memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works dated December 4, 2016 (Proposed Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing at Lake Oahe, North Dakota), and whether to withdraw the Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in Connection with Dakota Access, LLC's Request for an Easement to Cross Lake Oahe, North Dakota, dated January 18, 2017, and published at 82 Fed. Reg. 5543;
(iii) consider, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, prior reviews and determinations, including the Environmental Assessment issued in July of 2016 ...
In late August, the #NoDAPL movement began to unfold at Cannonball, North Dakota when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe led a group of protestors to block construction sites that were permitted to continue despite an injunction filed by Earthjustice who was representing the community. This group began to grow as representatives from 300 indigenous nations came in to stand in solidarity against the pipeline’s construction. By November, their numbers were estimated to be in the thousands, setting up camps along the Cannonball River.
|One of the camps, Oceti Oyate (All Nations Camp), in December. Source: National Geographic|
Along with environmentalists and activists, the Native Americans have emphasized the harmful impacts pipeline will bring to Standing Rock community’s drinking water in the event it leaks. Furthermore, the pipe's route was previously planned to go through a predominantly white town, Bismarck, but was re-routed after residents complained about the same concern: water contamination. The pipeline’s construction is reported to have already destroyed sacred Native American burial sites and recently discovered artifacts in the area.
Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice, the organization representing the Standing Rock Sioux, said Donald Trump did not consult any of the Standing Rock or other Sioux tribes before signing the executive orders. Executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, Tom B.K. Goldtooth also stated that the ‘actions by the president [on Tuesday] demonstrate that this Administration is more than willing to violate federal law that is meant to protect Indigenous rights, human rights, the environment and the overall safety of communities for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry.
Trump, unsurprisingly, refused to comment on the current opposition by protestors shortly after he signed the order.
As the administration tries to advance the project, Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, said at the Tuesday briefing that Trump is ‘willing to sit down with all of the individuals that are involved in the Dakota pipeline to make sure that it's a deal that benefits ... all of the parties of interest, or at least gets them something that they want’.
And the citizens have responded. In protest to the decision (and also the newly revived Keystone XL pipeline plan), a rally was held outside the White House on Tuesday at 5pm. It was hosted by the Indigenous Environmental Network, 350.org, and many more groups.
The Guardian has an inspiring compilation of responses to the construction getting the green-light, here is one of them:
“If you want to stand with Standing Rock, this is the time people should be there,” said Xhopakelxhit, who is a member of the Red Warrior camp, which organized direct actions against the pipeline. “The people still at camp are requesting help, more bodies, people who are willing to actually make a stand with them, because it’s the most dire need.”
Democratic presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders is already joining in:
We can't afford to build new pipelines that lock us into burning more fossil fuels. I will do everything I can to stop Keystone XL and DAPL.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 24, 2017
Trump’s move to expedite the pipeline is a complete contrast to Obama’s decision to listen to the people when they banded against the multi-million dollar company since April last year. This fight is more than just an environmental cause. This is a fight to protect the Standing Rock Community’s water supply, to defend sacred land, and more importantly, for Indigenous rights to be honoured.
Do check out some of these useful and informational links below!
Join the Fight:
- Donate here and here to the Water Protectors!
- A thought-provoking interview on Environmental Racism and Tribal Sovereignty
- Watch a moving documentary on the Battle at Standing Rock