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Army Corps Of Engineers Tells Dakota Access Pipeline Developers To Go Lay Pipe Somewhere Else
Good guys win for a change
In what might be the last victory for the environment for a good long while before the Oil Everywhere advocates of the incoming Trump administration take over, the Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday it would not grant an easement to allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River, the main source of water for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The Army Corps owns land on either side of the lake, which was the last portion of land the pipeline developers wanted to build on to complete the pipeline.
“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,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement Sunday. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
The timing's pretty convenient, since today was the day the Army Corps had set to cut off access to protest camps set up by tribes and supporters from all over the country.
For the moment, the good guys have won. But Donald Trump loves him some pipelines, and even though he's sold the stock he owned in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the Dallas-based company building the pipeline, recent campaign finance disclosures show he still owns between $100,000 and $250,000 of stock in Phillips 66, which owns a 25% stake in the project. And the CEO of ETP, Kelcy Warren, has been an enthusiastic contributor to Trump. So the whole mess could start all over again after Trump takes office. You know how it goes with victories for Native American tribes, after all.
For now, protesters are both celebrating and staying cautious.
“Until all the razor wire comes down, until the helicopters stop flying overhead, the spotlights turn off, the drill pad is dismantled, this isn’t the end,” said [Bruce] Gali, a 67-year-old member of the Pitt River Tribe. “It’s not just about this pipeline.”
Yr Wonkette is not a land use lawyer, so we can't say for certain that a newly inaugurated Donald can't just reverse the Army Corps decision. But it looks like the Army's decision is at the very least designed to set in motion a bureaucratic process that will make simply ramming the pipeline under the river difficult, according to the Washington Post:
Army officials said that the consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an environmental-impact statement with full public input and analysis, a process likely to take many months.
Ordinarily, the Army Corps, which has jurisdiction over domestic petroleum pipelines, does not require a detailed environmental-impact statement but it does require environmental assessments of the impact on water crossings.
It's also entirely possible the Army Corps could ultimately decide the impact of building the pipeline under Lake Oahe would be minimal. But it could take a while. In the meantime, North Dakota politicians are all having a great big hissy, accusing the Obama administration of playing politics with the pipeline (as if the developers, in bulldozing over sacred tribal sites and endangering a tribe's sole water source, aren't?). Chief among the butthurt is Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, who issued a statement saying
“I’m encouraged we will restore law and order next month when we get a President who will not thumb his nose at the rule of law [...] I feel badly for the Corps of Engineers because of the diligent work it did on this project, only to have their Commander-in-Chief throw them under the bus.”
We'd suggest Cramer not feel too upset for the Corps of Engineers, which joined the Departments of Interior and Justice in a joint statement in September putting development of the pipeline on hold on Army Corps land.
Also, let's all yell at North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who supports the pipeline, and complained in a statement Sunday,
It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe [...] This administration’s delay in taking action — after I’ve pushed the White House, Army Corps and other federal agencies for months to make a decision — means that today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project. The pipeline still remains in limbo.
The poor, poor pipeline. Maybe Sen. Heitkamp should be reminded that she's supposed to represent the people of North Dakota -- yep, even the Standing Rock Sioux people -- not just the oil interests.
We'll give the last word -- for the moment -- to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, at least until she's replaced by somebody from Exxon Mobil:
“The thoughtful approach established by the Army today ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts,” she said Sunday. “The Army’s announcement underscores that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”
Dare we hope that somewhere in the Army Corps and Interior there are some sympathetic Radar O'Reilly smartguy types who'll be able to say, after the Trump inauguration, "Gosh, Mr. President, this environmental impact evaluation process is gonna take some time. You can't rush something like this, you know. Tricky business, what with the water supply and the tribes' claims, lots of factors to consider." Heck, it might take longer than, say, an IRS tax audit, sir.
[ WaPo ]