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Opposition to Dakota Access Pipeline Set to Ramp Up

Auditi Guha

“Illegally forcing this project through is an obvious example of corruption as well as a gross violation of Indigenous rights, a direct threat to peoples' water, and a denial of climate science," said Kendall Mackey, a Keep it in the Ground campaigner with 350.org. "Trump is putting people and water at risk in order to line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry."

The Seattle City Council this week voted unanimously to divest from Wells Fargo, a major financier of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, as more than more than 40 #NoDAPL actions were held across the country Wednesday in reaction to the stalled project receiving its final approval.

Seattle’s divestment effort, led by Councilmember Kshama Sawant, will remove about $3 billion from Wells Fargo when the city’s contract expires at the end of 2018.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday notified Congress it would grant the easement needed for Energy Transfer Partners to dig under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River to complete the last 1.5 miles of the 1,172-mile pipeline, cutting short its environmental impact assessment and the public comment period, according to NPR.

The four-state pipeline connects oil production areas in North Dakota with a crude oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois, and would bring cheaper oil to the midwest.

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The decision comes two weeks after President Trump signed a memo instructing the secretary of the Army to expedite approval of the pipeline.

“Today’s announcement will allow for the final step, which is granting of the easement,” Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer said.

After months of resistance, tribal leaders vowed to continue the fight to protect their treaty land and primary water source.

The tribes at Standing Rock called for an international day of emergency actions “to disrupt business as usual and unleash a global intersectional resistance to fossil fuels and fascism.”

Native activist and Wica Agli co-founder Aldo Seoane participated in a rally that drew about 200 and shut down streets in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon. They protested the easement decision outside the Army Corps headquarters, announced updates from Standing Rock and stood in solidarity for environmental and Native treaty rights, Seoane told Rewire.

“It’s not just Standing Rock and Native rights that are under attack, it’s everyone,” he said, citing the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban, hostility toward women, and attacks on free speech. “This is a united effort, a humanitarian effort. And we will continue the fight in the courts and streets.”

There are more than 100 actions planned nationwide this month.

“Donald Trump will not build his Dakota Access Pipeline without a fight,” Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in an statement. “The granting of an easement, without any environmental review or tribal consultation, is not the end of this fight—it is the new beginning.”

Trump downplayed the opposition, claiming in a video posted by ABC News that he has not received “one call” about the pipeline. “”I don’t even think it was controversial,” he said.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe denounced the Army’s announcement and immediately published a response saying that Trump’s comment reflects “a distorted sense of reality” given that the #NoDAPL opposition inspired a global movement against the pipeline project.

“We sent a letter directly to Trump, have filed a legal challenge and we stand with more than 360 Native Nations and millions of Americans who have voiced their opposition to the project,” said Tribal Chair Dave Archambault II. “The media has widely reported the President’s brazen conflict of interest to the pipeline. His complete disregard for Native Nations and our treaty rights is disrespectful.”

Archambault was on his way to Washington, D.C., to meet with White House officials Tuesday but cancelled the meeting when he learned about the Army Corps’ easement.

“The environmental impact statement was wrongfully terminated. This pipeline was unfairly rerouted across our treaty lands. The Trump administration—yet again—is poised to set a precedent that defies the law and the will of Americans and our allies around the world,” Archambault said in response to the Army’s decision.

Trump, who has made no secret of his support for fossil fuels and his disdain for environmental protections, held investments between $500,000 and $1 million in the Texas company building the pipeline but sold his stake in December, according to the Washington Post.

In another blow to opponents of the pipeline, Trump chose former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, for energy secretary. Trump received “generous political contributions” from Energy Transfer chief executive Kelcy Warren, the Post reported.  

Former interior secretary Sally Jewell told the Washington Post on Wednesday that the Army Corps was “reneging” on its commitment to federal agencies and tribal leaders, and violating its legal obligations. Attorneys for the tribe have also argued that the easement cannot be granted legally at this time.

Resistance to the pipeline has grown since the summer, with environmental and social justice organizations starting campaigns and circulating petitions.

Bold Alliance, which has collected more than 10,000 comments from citizens opposed to pipeline, said in a statement that the cancellation of the Obama-ordered environmental impact statement is unprecedented and will be challenged in court.

“Today’s decision by the Army Corps, acting under the order issued by President Trump to cancel the environmental review and grant Dakota Access an easement shows just how little the President values the democratic process,” said Ed Fallon, state director of Bold Iowa.

“Illegally forcing this project through is an obvious example of corruption as well as a gross violation of Indigenous rights, a direct threat to peoples’ water, and a denial of climate science. Trump is putting people and water at risk in order to line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry,” Kendall Mackey, a Keep it in the Ground campaigner with 350.org, said in a statement Wednesday. “We will not be silenced. Thousands will take to the streets today to show our resistance, and we need you to be one of them.”

The Standing Rock Sioux and various activists protested the construction throughout 2016. They argue that the tribe wasn’t properly consulted, and that a pipeline leak would be disastrous for the water on which about 17 million depend.

Research presented by anti-pipeline groups indicates that Energy Transfer and Sunoco projects have been plagued by industrial accidents. The companies were involved in 42 spills of nearly 200,000 gallons of oil in the past two years alone.

Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Army Corps.

Dallas Goldtooth, a campaign organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, wrote Wednesday that he expects the tribes will file a temporary restraining order or request a summary judgement on the lawsuit. Both options can be appealed, he said.

A Native Nations march on Washington has been scheduled for March 10.

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