As Energy Transfer Partners seeks to block a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), the U.S. Department of the Army has published notice in the Federal Register just days before President Barack Obama leaves office.
On January 17, Texas-based Energy Transfer had asked Judge James Boasberg to block the notice's publication pending his upcoming ruling on whether the company does in fact have all the permits and easements it needs to finish the final piece of the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline under Lake Oahe, the Associated Press reported. At a hearing on Wednesday afternoon January 18, Boasberg ruled that the study could continue. Publication of the notice in the Federal Registry puts the study in motion.
"The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe applauds the publication of the Notice of Intent to require an Environmental Impact Statement in the Federal Register today," the tribe said in a statement on January 18. "We appreciate the time and effort it took to get us to this point; yet another small victory on the path to justice. We commend [U.S. Secretary of the Army] Jo Ellen Darcy for her leadership and decision to require the EIS, and are thankful to both our supporters and the many government workers who it took to bring us to this point today. This continues to be historic."
The tribe cautioned, though, that the struggle is still in full swing, and noted that the EIS launch gives the public an opportunity to help.
"The notice issued today opens the public scoping phase and invites anyone interested to help them to identify potential issues, concerns, and reasonable alternatives that should be considered in an EIS," the tribe said.
The tribe's main concern is that the scope of the study is too narrow, focusing on the portion that goes under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a half-mile from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and its water supply.
"While the EIS is exactly what we called for, the final product must be stronger and more broad in scope," the Standing Rock Sioux said in the statement. "Rightfully, it should include at the very least the territory of the entire Great Sioux Nation, and not just Lake Oahe and the northern boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's Reservation. We understand that the process is just starting, and we anticipate working closely with the Army as this process moves forward."
The need to continue supporting the water protectors was underscored by events over the weekend leading up to the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday January 15. More rubber bullets, water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures, and other harmful military methods were employed again in clashes that got 16 people arrested on Monday and Tuesday January 16 and 17, bringing the number above 600, according to the Associated Press.
"Dakota Access is clearly concerned that an EIS will seriously jeopardize their proposed project," the Standing Rock Sioux said in a statement on January 17. "While Dakota Access is seeking to block an EIS, the Tribe is confident that the fair and comprehensive process of an EIS will illustrate what the Tribe has been saying all along—the Dakota Access cannot properly cross under Lake Oahe at the location immediately upstream of the Standing Rock reservation. The best way to analyze the alternative routes is through a full EIS."