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When I last wrote about the struggle at Standing Rock, in the Oct. 2016 issue of The Circle, several federal departments – the Army, Justice and Interior – had stopped construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL). And on Dec. 4, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not grant an easement under Lake Oahe, just north of the Standing Rock reservation, for the Dakota Access pipeline; the Corps said that it would prepare an environmental impact statement for alternative pipeline routes.
However, there’s a new sheriff in town, so to speak, and the tide has turned in favor of fossil fuels and oil pipelines.
Regarding the stand made at Standing Rock, the last water protectors were hauled out of the Oceti Sakowin camp near Cannonball, No. Dakota, on Feb. 23, following an order by No. Dakota authorities to evacuate the camp.
“The process of clearing out the camp took nearly four hours to complete and included 220 officers and 18 members of the National Guard, the AP reported,” according to Teen Vogue magazine, a quite good news source for the #NoDAPL movement. “ABC News noted that police arrested 46 people who refused to leave the camp. Speaking to ABC News, a representative for the North Dakota Joint Information Center said that when one group of veterans refused to voluntarily leave the camp, they were carried out by law enforcement.”
And Teen Vogue quoted Chase Iron Eyes, a lawyer, activist and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has spearheaded the fight against DAPL: “The battleground has shifted to the legal courts and the court of public opinion.”
Regarding the legal front, Earthjustice, a public interest law firm representing the Standing Rock tribe, is pushing its motion for summary judgement, which “lays out our case, basically, that what President Trump and the Army Corps of Engineers did was illegal, in… reversing their decision to move forward with an environmental impact statement,” said Phillip Ellis, senior press secretary for Earthjustice.
Readers might recall that Trump, on his fourth day in office, signed an executive action to advance approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. It’s not clear if Trump actually read the documents or knew any of the details of the two projects; but he signed the papers and displayed his signature to those assembled in the Oval Office.
During a phone interview from his Washington, D.C., office, Ellis pointed out that the motion for summary judgement, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is intended to expedite the court’s decision, “before we thought oil would flow through the pipeline. The company continues to move its deadline up.”
The court might not make a decision on the Standing Rock tribe’s legal motion before oil starts flowing on March 6, according to Ellis, who said that Energy Transfer Partners, the corporation behind DAPL, is “moving on a very aggressive schedule.”
The section of pipeline under Lake Oahe is the last link of the 1,172-mile underground pipeline carrying oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through So. Dakota and Iowa, and ending at a tank farm near Patoka, Ill.
Although the Oceti Sakowin camp has been demolished, Ellis pointed out that “there’s a lot that still remains” of the popular opposition to DAPL.
Notably, a “march in prayer and action” has been called by the Standing Rock tribe and indigenous grassroots leaders for March 10 in Washington, D.C. (standwithstandingrock.net/march). The march will be preceded by three days of lobbying on Capitol Hill; and there is a demand that Pres. Trump meet with tribal leaders and learn the importance of respecting tribal rights.
The wrecking crew known as the Trump administration is poised to do great harm to people and the natural environment. In late February, I also talked with Kevin Whelan, executive director of MN350, a group committed to action to combat climate change. Putting pressure on banks (including US Bank and Wells Fargo) providing funds for oil pipelines and fossil fuel development has been a MN350 focus.
“Our work has gotten much harder, but many more people are stepping up to join in the work,” said Whelan, regarding the situation since Trump was sworn in as president.
Specifically, Whelan explained that Trump has moved aggressively against the movement for clean energy, and has reversed the partial victory won at Standing Rock. He has “appointed climate deniers and enemies of clean air and water to important positions.”
We all will need to stay alert and stay active to resist the onslaught from Washington.