All sides continue to maneuver to strengthen their positions related to the nearly completed $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline, which Native American tribes want stopped in the midst of its construction covering four states, while backers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) now argue already was thoroughly vetted to protect cultural and burial sites sacred to the tribes.
Centered on a lone water crossing of a dammed portion of the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in south-central North Dakota, the USACE that once approved the crossing is now reviewing that easement at the Obama administration's behest, and the Sioux said on Thursday it has gained the support of 19 U.S. city governments that have passed resolutions or written letters opposing the nearly 1,200-mile oil pipeline.
Last Tuesday, USACE filed a 49-page brief to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia where earlier a three-judge panel had rejected the Sioux Tribe's request for a an injunction to stop the pipeline work (see Shale Daily, Oct. 10) to argue that contrary to the tribe's allegations, the Corps did its job in consulting with the Native American interests over the past two years before granting approval for the pipeline water crossings.
In essence, the federal agency told the appellate court that contrary to the tribes' allegations the USACE did its job properly the first time, and now it expects to complete the ongoing review of the final easement in the next few weeks or months as part of the joint action by the Departments of Interior and Justice (see Shale Daily, Sept. 13).
Supporters of the pipeline, Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN), on Thursday distributed a video showing a group of protesters threatening an NBC Bismarck affiliate news team at the protest encampment that has swelled in recent weeks near the still-unapproved river crossing under Lake Oahe.
Also on Thursday, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA.), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting the administration halt construction of the Dakota Access project until affected tribes are consulted and a full environmental review is conducted even though the pipeline backer, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), and the USACE contend that was done months ago.
“In light of the decision of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to reject the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's request for a temporary halt to construction, the project’s current permits should be suspended and all construction stopped until a complete environmental and cultural review has been completed for the entire project,” the senators wrote.
In response, MAIN spokesperson Craig Stevens said there is "no legitimate reason whatsoever for the federal government to request another environmental study for the pipeline; to do so is nothing more than a ploy to kill the project by an unnecessary and undetermined delay."
According to local news reports, Dakota Access is now 90% complete in North Dakota where it starts in the Bakken Shale play, and construction is mostly completed in the other three states -- South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois where it will connect with existing market hubs to carry crude oil to East and Gulf Coast markets.
Nevertheless, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II reiterated allegations that the pipeline "threatens the lives" of more than 17 million that get their water supplies from the Missouri River. "Millions stand with us in opposition to this destructive pipeline," he said, adding the allegation that ETP has ignored the Obama administration's call for a voluntary construction halt."
Following the latest appellate court ruling, a Texas-based ETP spokesperson did indicate that the company planned to resume construction.