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Dakota Access, pipeline protest
A banner protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline is displayed at an encampment near North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux reservation on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe's attempt to halt construction of an oil pipeline near its North Dakota reservation failed in federal court Friday, but three government agencies asked the pipeline company to "voluntarily pause" work on a segment that tribal officials say holds sacred artifacts. (AP Photo/James MacPherson)

Federal intervention on oil pipeline project unprecedented

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Standing Rock Sioux’s effort to block a four-state oil pipeline got a lifeline when the federal government temporarily stopped the project, a move some say likely may forever change the way all energy infrastructure projects are reviewed in the future.

Just minutes after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s attempt to halt the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline that skirts the reservation in southern North Dakota, three federal agencies appealed to the pipeline company to “voluntarily pause” work on a segment that tribal officials say holds sacred sites and artifacts.

Tribal officials challenged the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant permits for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners’ $3.8 billion pipeline that is intended to carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

Friday’s ruling by Boasberg, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, came amid growing protests over the pipeline, which would cross the Missouri River less than a mile upstream of the reservation.

The statement by the Departments of Justice, Army and Interior said it would “reconsider any of its previous decisions” on land that borders or is under Lake Oahe, one of six reservoirs on the Missouri River and the drinking water source for the tribal members on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The statement from the federal departments also said the case “highlighted the need for a serious discussion” about nationwide reforms “with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”

Troy Eid, a former U.S. attorney in Colorado who now specializes in Indian law, said the action was unprecedented and a “significant setback” for the pipeline’s builders.

“Everywhere in Indian Country, people are talking about this,” said Eid, who spoke by phone Saturday while on horseback during a parade at the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock, Arizona.

He said the lack of tribal consultation on the Dakota Access pipeline “is a textbook example of how not to do a project.”

Historically, tribes only have been consulted on energy infrastructure projects, with the federal government making the actual decisions, said Eid, a Republican.

The Obama administration’s action Friday likely changed that, he said.

“Tribes want to be able to influence the outcome in a substantive way,” Eid said.

Industry consultant Brigham McCown, a former acting administrator for the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said the Obama administration’s involvement has “changed the lay of the land forever” for infrastructure projects.

“This could bog down or delay every single infrastructure project moving forward,” he said. “I don’t think they even realize the can of worms they’ve opened.”

As a regulator during the George W. Bush administration, McCown said he oversaw safety for 1 million daily shipments of hazardous goods throughout the United States by air, rail, sea, land and pipeline.

“We were very apolitical in the decisions we made,” he said. “Things are very different now, whether from the right wing or left wing, politics of all kinds are being injected into this.”

The company plans to have the pipeline completed this year. In court papers, it said stopping the project would cost it $1.4 billion the first year, mostly due to lost revenue in hauling crude.

The federal government’s action in trumping the federal judge’s ruling, however temporary, was a major victory for Native Americans in a “cultural and historical context,” said Monte Mills, an assistant professor and co-director of the Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic at the University of Montana in Missoula.

“The way Indian Country came together to support Standing Rock has really been powerful,” he said.

“There is no question it will be much more difficult and costly for these projects to move forward in the future,” said Brian Jorde, an Omaha, Nebraska, lawyer who is working with opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline designed to move crude from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

“The reality is (Dakota Access) likely will move forward — not that I believe it should move forward — but all the pieces are in place for it to go forward,” Jorde said. “There is too much money involved and too much influence in Washington to just give up.”

 

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

One comment

  1. Until the further studies on this pipeline are met with approval from the government, ALL oil and gas pipelines in the US should be voluntarily shut off, pending further studies.
    Since we are 100% sure there is a HUGE danger from pipelines, and since this pipeline is the latest, and thus the safest pipeline in the nation, all 1.86 million miles of inferior and thus more dangerous oil and gas pipelines should be shut off immediately.
    This should at least happen from Chicago east. These seem to be the people most concerned with the horrible dangers presented by the evil pipelines.
    Of course we need to do this. We know for a 100% fact that the government has our best interests at heart. We know for a fact that the government isn’t once again shooting the buffalo; that is, destroying the economy on the Great Plains to drive the residents into submission because they value the land and people of a single skin color more than all the people living on it. That would be ridiculous. The would also have to fight coal, logging, grazing and things like fertilizer, pesticides and farming industries. I mean really! It’s not like Monsanto and ConAgra are being targeted and labelled as evil for no apparent reason.
    We need to show them we care and shut off ALL pipelines until they, in their kind and fair and completely non-racist benevolence can agree that this pipeline is safe!

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