The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said it will “vigorously pursue legal action” after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was ordered to grant the final easement to finish construction of the hotly contested Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
Republican North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven announced the developments on Tuesday January 31 after speaking with Vice President Mike Pence and Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer. In a prepared statement, Hoeven said that the Army Corps of Engineers will “proceed” with the easement required to complete the $3.8 billion crude-oil pipeline.
“This will enable the company to complete the project, which can and will be built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream,” read the statement.
Hoeven spokesman Don Canton, told the Associated Press that this meant the easement “isn’t quite issued yet, but they plan to approve it” in a matter of days.
The U.S. Department of the Army did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Tuesday evening, North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer posted a video on his website.
“The Dakota Access pipeline now has its final green light,” said Cramer, adding that the Department of Army would be notifying Congress “immediately.”
An approval of the easement would reverse the December 4 decision by the Department of Army to halt construction of the 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline. That decision prevented it from crossing beneath the Standing Rock Tribe's primary water supply, the Missouri River and its reservoir, Lake Oahe. It would also circumvent the environmental impact statement (EIS) that was initiated via publication in the Federal Register in mid-January, initiating a public comment process that is in effect until February 20. The Army had said final permits for the energy project would be delayed until a full EIS study had been conducted. The December 4 decision also suggested that alternate routes for the pipeline would be explored.
DAPL was first introduced to the Standing Rock Tribe in 2014, when audio recordings document the tribe’s immediate rejection of the project. The four-state pipeline would transport an estimated 570,000 barrels daily of Bakken crude from northwestern North Dakota, across South Dakota, Iowa and finally to a refinery in Illinois. The path of the pipeline calls to traverse at least 92 feet below the Missouri River, less than a mile from the tribe’s existing reservation boundary. Original plans called for routing the line through the predominantly white community of Bismarck, but it was diverted over concerns of contaminating municipal water wells.
“We are not surprised,” read a statement by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “While this news is disappointing, it is unfortunately not surprising. It is also not a formal issuance of the easement—it is notification that the easement is imminent.”
On Monday, January 30, the matter was reviewed in a hearing before Judge James Boasberg of U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. The court proceeding on the pending litigation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was held in response to confusion created by President Donald Trump’s January 24 memorandum that directed the Secretary of the Army to “review and approve in an expedited manner anything necessary” to operationalize the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) as soon as possible.
The battle over the pipeline has drawn mass protests in recent months near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, where hundreds remain camped out in winter conditions, resolved to stop construction of the pipeline. The movement has resulted in clashes with police that have resulted in more than 100 documented cases of people suffering injuries by police-led actions, and upwards of 600 arrests.
In Tuesday’s statement, Hoeven also said additional federal resources had been secured to support state and local law enforcement.
“This has been a difficult issue for all involved, particularly those who live and work in the area of the protest site, and we need to bring it to a peaceful resolution,” said Hoeven.