Standing Rock Action Calls on Obama, Army Corps to Reject Pipeline

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Standing Rock Action Calls on Obama, Army Corps to Reject Pipeline

Auditi Guha

Thousands are expected to join in the national day of solidarity to protest at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offices across the nation and at banks financing the project.

Leaders of the Native American resistance at Standing Rock have called for a day of action on Tuesday to permanently reject the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

Thousands are expected to join protests at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offices across the nation and at banks financing the project, in an effort to push the Obama administration and the Army Corps to stop construction that threatens to pollute the water and destroy sacred native land, according to a press release from the Indigenous Environmental Network and Honor the Earth.

“This is really a continuation of the fight ongoing since 1491, every year, every decade, every day. At Standing Rock, this fight has come home, threatening our land, life, and lifestyle,” Jason Pretty Boy, a Native American from Standing Rock who now lives in Boise, Idaho, said in a phone interview with RewirePretty Boy will participate Tuesday with Idle No More Idaho, one of four groups organizing actions in the state. 

For Pretty Boy, this fight is about more than just one river in North Dakota—it’s about a corporation using eminent domain to grab land against the wishes of the people who live there. The importance of Tuesday’s protests, he said, is “primarily to bring knowledge to the idea that this will affect everybody, everywhere.”

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Jed Laucharoen, an organizer with Philly #NoDAPL Solidarity, said he expects several hundreds to show up to protests in Philadelphia.

“Environmental racism is both a national and global problem that we also see here in Philadelphia, where the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery impacts Southwest Philadelphia communities of color,” Laucharoen told Rewire in an email. “Through coordinated action, we intend to demonstrate to the Army Corps of Engineers that there is popular disapproval of this project and demand that they deny the permit needed for Dakota Access, LLC to drill beneath the Missouri River. We also intend, with sufficient pressure to influence banks to divest from the DAPL.”

The Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, builder of the pipeline, does not yet have the easement—the right to use someone else’s land—needed to tunnel under the river.

After a review launched September 9, the Army announced Monday that it “has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands, the importance of Lake Oahe to the Tribe, our government-to-government relationship, and the statute governing easements through government property.”

The Army invited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to discuss potential pitfalls of approving the easement needed for the pipeline crossing at Lake Oahe, a 370,000-acre reservoir behind Oahe Dam on the Missouri River.

It stated that while discussions are underway, “construction on or under Corps land bordering Lake Oahe cannot occur because the Army has not made a final decision on whether to grant an easement.”

Energy Transfer Partners responded Monday that it is prepared to suspend construction activities near Lake Oahe “for a reasonable time period” as long as a completion date is agreed upon.

“In our view, the authority to complete construction is part and parcel of a river crossing permit which was issued by the Corps on July 25,” the statement read. “As a practical matter, pipeline construction in the State of North Dakota is complete except for the crossing beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahe.”

Building without approved easements is a violation of federal law, though Pretty Boy noted that the company can choose to resume drilling on the four-state $3.8 billion pipeline and face fines.

“The only possible path forward for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is a decision that denies the easement or subjects it to a full environmental impact statement and tribal consultation,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II in a statement last week, after the Justice Department announced in federal court it will be coming up with a “path forward” for the pipeline crossing.

“The only urgency here arises from DAPL’s reckless decision to build to either site of the Missouri River without a permit,” Archambault said.

Work on the pipeline has stalled since tribal protests at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota gathered momentum in recent months, even in the face of militarized police retaliation.

“It’s about Native lives, treaty land, and sovereign nations which continue to be overlooked and misrepresented,” said Kris Grimshaw in a phone interview with Rewire. “The indigenous people of the United States have been repressed and marginalized for 500 years. I consider it my civic duty to support them.”

Grimshaw, a Boise resident who plans to participate in the Tuesday action, cited climate change and environmental justice as additional reasons for her participation in the protest.

No decisions have been made about the disputed easement, the Obama administration said on Friday, according to Politico.

“This mass mobilization will show President Obama that it’s more important than ever for him to reject the Dakota Access Pipeline while he’s in office,” the Indigenous Environmental Network said in a statement announcing Tuesday’s day of action. “These actions will also be a powerful moment for people across movements to unite in solidarity with Indigenous peoples in Standing Rock and to strengthen the resistance movement to fight fossil fuels and white supremacy under a Trump administration.”

Some activists fear this may be too little, too late, said Pretty Boy. Any decision Obama makes in the next 65 days could be overturned by President-elect Donald Trump, and protests might have to start all over again.

Meanwhile, Yes! magazine has published the names and contacts of 17 banks funding the Dakota Access pipeline project, including Wells Fargo, Citibank, and JPMorgan Chase.

“People should also ask these institutions why they are sinking so much money into maximizing the amounts of oil and gas that can be brought to the surface and burned at a time when climate science is clear we have to maximize what we keep in the ground instead,” Food & Water Watch researcher Hugh MacMillan told Yes! magazine.

At a conference in Atlanta last week, Carrie Sloan, a senior research analyst at the ReFund America Project, said it is important to see where the money is coming from and to withdraw support from banks funding projects like the Dakota Access pipeline.

“There are six banks that are funding the oil and gas industry—Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and Citibank. Pull your money out of those banks,” Sloan said.

The pipeline is one of many projects across the nation putting corporate profit and capital over people and public health, according to Dorthea Thomas, an organizer with the Sierra Club of Michigan.

“That’s deadly because only the privileged will survive. When we can’t rely on government, we have to create the revolutionary change we want to see,” Thomas said last week in Atlanta, where 2,000 advocates discussed race equity at the Race Forward conference. 

The protests at Standing Rock have led to broad discussions about tribal sovereignty and the conflicting policies that apply under county, state, and federal governments, said Native Organizers Alliance Director Judith LeBlanc at the Atlanta conference. The protests, she added, have also disrupted the dialogue around native lives and created new leaders and movements, while forging alliances across tribes, cities, states, and nations.

“Standing Rock has changed everything,” LeBlanc said.