On Sept. 9, 2016, the federal government suspended the North Dakota pipeline construction, and on Sept. 14, the Federal Court of Appeals upheld the injunction. Before this, a judge had denied the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s aim to terminate the pipeline’s construction.
The North Dakota pipeline has caused tensions to boil. The Dallas-based company Energy Transfers Partners (ETP) was building the North Dakota pipeline. The friction rose between it and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. These problems seemingly began on Feb. 17, 2015.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is in command of U.S. waterways. The engineers posted a letter to the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) that day. The permitting process for the North Dakota Pipeline then commenced, reported Alexander Sammon.
USACE must comply with section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Thus, engineers had to seek advice from tribes who were piqued by the North Dakota pipeline’s possible impacts.
THPO then posted three letters to USACE. The first asked for a thorough archaeological investigation. THPO sent the second on February 25 and the third on April 8. USACE supposedly did not reply.
The next two letters brought THPO to the conclusion that USACE had been trying to avoid the section 106 process, reported Sammon.
The Army Corps found that the North Dakota pipeline would affect no historical areas on April 4, 2016. This is despite the fact that the American Council on Historical Preservation (ACHP) had expressed their doubts about the safety of the pipeline.
One concern was that the Michigan Enbridge Energy pipeline spilled 843,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River in 2010. Furthermore, the North Dakota Tesoro Logistics pipeline also burst in 2013. This ended up pouring about 865,000 gallons onto a farm and causing over 1 billion dollars in the cleanup.
Nevertheless, ETP said that the North Dakota pipeline would create jobs and wealth. They further claimed that this was much safer than using trains or trucks. The reasoning used; if the trucks or trains spilled, that area might catch on fire.
The plan for the pipeline was to be built under the Missouri River. The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation boundary is just half a mile downstream from the proposed site. In spite of this, USACE continued to claim that direct or indirect environmental effects would be zero.
The Standing Rock Sioux filed for an injunction to end the construction of the North Dakota pipeline on Aug. 4, 2016. The ETP reacted with a lawsuit seeking to block the Sioux request on August 15.
Following that, protesters obstructed construction on August 22. Their numbers swelled to thousands at the site in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
In reaction to that, Homeland Security Division Director Greg Wilz pulled state-owned trailers and tanks from the site. These had been used to provide water for protesters.
According to The Washington Post, the North Dakota Highway Patrol has been using $65,000 weekly, to watch the protestors. Additionally, the Morton County Sheriff’s Office approximated it has been using $100,000 weekly.
Just three days before the Sept. 9 ruling, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg had temporarily ended the construction of the North Dakota pipeline.
The Standing Rock Sioux had found a sacred burial site just before construction was halted, said EcoWatch. They were then awaiting the state historic preservation office’s review. The decision came after the bulldozers had destroyed the burial ground.
Creating more dissension, a private security detail pepper-sprayed 30 people. Their dogs bit five adults and a child, according to Steve Sitting Bear, the tribe spokesman.
Finally, on that faithful Friday, Boasberg refused the Standing Rock Sioux’s injunction request. The Departments of the Interior, Army and that of Justice followed up in minutes by refusing to allow construction.
The departments also requested the ETP to cease the North Dakota pipeline’s construction within 20 miles of Lake Oahe. This was so they could figure out whether the construction encroached on the National Environmental Policy Act.
As the construction workers left, the chants of “Don’t come back!” rang out. When they were far away enough, the tribes and protesters cheered. Although, some still jeered at the workers. The North Dakota pipeline would be stalled for some time.
The protesters sang and chanted. The North Dakota pipeline construction site and areas around it were littered with tipis, tents, cars, horses, and people. The protesters lined up to receive their food after their victory.
As of now, the government has not said yet how long it would suspend the North Dakota pipeline construction.
By Osveen Funwi
Edited by Cathy Milne
Mother Jones: A History of Native Americans Protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline
The New York Times: U.S. Suspends Construction on Part of North Dakota Pipeline
The New York Times: North Dakota Oil Pipeline Battle: Who’s Fighting and Why
The Washington Post: Authorities to build up presence before oil pipeline ruling
Image Courtesy of Tim Evanson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License