Dakota Access Pipeline: Timeline

In this Dec. 4, 2016, photo, protesters march at Oceti Sakowin camp, where people gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

Kolby KickingWoman

Updated: A look at events that have unfolded over the years ahead of this week's historic Dakota Access Pipeline ruling

Kolby KickingWoman

Indian Country Today

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe this week landed what supporters are calling an unprecedented win in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, with a judge ordering the pipeline shut down for additional environmental review. 

Over the years, the #NoDAPL movement has captivated all of Indian Country, with Indigenous people and allies the world over joining together to support the “Oceti Sakowin” camp on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

Below is a look at some of the major events that led to Monday's ruling:

December 2014: Energy Transfer Partners, an oil company in Texas, applies to the federal government to build the 1,200-mile, $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline to carry half a million barrels of North Dakota oil daily through the Dakotas and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois. The proposed route skirts tribal lands and crosses under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in the Dakotas that serves as the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s drinking water source.

(Related: Risky Dakota Access Pipeline)

April 2016: Opponents to the Dakota Access Pipeline set up what becomes known as the “Oceti Sakowin Camp.” Native and non-Native people across the country and world would eventually come to take part in demonstrations against the pipeline. Occasional run-ins with law enforcement would turn violent.

Native and non-Native youth opposing the pipeline ran 500 miles from Cannonball, North Dakota, to the district of the United States Corps of Engineers in Omaha, Nebraska. The group then ran 2,000 miles from North Dakota to Washington, D.C., headquarters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

At its highest capacity, thousands of people were reported to be at the camp.

Tribal flags line main road through Oceti Sakowin camp (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)
Tribal flags line main road through Oceti Sakowin camp (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)

July 2016: Parts of the Dakota Access Pipeline that cross under the Missouri River and Lake Oahe reservoir are approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

August 2016: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe files a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers saying that the tribe was not properly consulted before the approval of pipeline construction.

The lawsuit would be denied a month later by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg.

September 2016: North Dakota National Guard is activated, by then-North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, to help state and local law enforcement monitor water protectors who had set up camp near the pipeline on the Standing Rock reservation.

(Video of the dog attacks that happened at the Dakota Access Pipeline on September 3, 2016)

Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota on September 3, 2016. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)
Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota on September 3, 2016. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

October 2016: After a brief hiatus, Energy Transfer Partners continues with construction of the pipeline near the Lake Oahe river crossing.

November 2016: As the Thanksgiving holiday nears, tensions between water protectors and law enforcement come to a head.

One night, on or about Nov. 21, 2016, law enforcement uses rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas on water protectors in below freezing temperatures. Days later, Dalrymple asks people to leave the encampment and signs an evacuation order citing harsh weather.

Water protectors stand near barb-wired fence in aftermath of law enforcement spraying demonstrators with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)
Water protectors stand near barb-wired fence in aftermath of law enforcement spraying demonstrators with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)
Burnt out car near bridge where water protectors clashed with law enforcement (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)
Burnt out car near bridge where water protectors clashed with law enforcement (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)

January 2017: On Jan. 18, 2017, the Army Corps of Engineers announced a full environmental study on the Lake Oahe river crossing, which had long been a point of dispute. The study could have taken up to two years.

A week later, shortly after inauguration, newly elected President Donald Trump signed an executive order expediting the review and approval process.

February 2017: U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is granted easements to drill under river crossing and at the direction of Trump’s executive order, bypassing the environmental study; including the public comment period. Construction under the Lake Oahe river crossing begins.

Shortly thereafter, the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe jointly filed a restraining order in U.S. District Court seeking to block the pipeline’s final piece of construction. Ultimately, Boasberg denies the tribes’ motion.

At the end of the month, authorities clear out remaining people at Standing Rock camp.

"Water is Sacred" print on fencepost inside Oceti Sakowin camp (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)
"Water is Sacred" print on fencepost inside Oceti Sakowin camp (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)

April 2017: Leaks are reported at different points along the pipeline in South Dakota and North Dakota.

June 2017: Oil begins to flow and is being shipped through the full-length of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Boasberg orders the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do additional environmental assessments on the pipeline impact of tribal communities. Both Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Tribes’ water source is the Missouri River. Boasberg says oil may continue to flow while assessment is conducted.

October/November 2018: Energy Transfer Partners gauge interest in increasing the pipeline’s capacity from 500,000 barrels of oil per day to up to 600,000 barrels to meet a “growing demand.”

Tribes reject the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assessment findings that the pipeline posed no environmental threats to tribes in the Dakotas.

“The corps has conducted a sham process to arrive at a sham conclusion, for the second time,” tribal Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement at the time.

June/July 2019: Energy Transfer Partners announce plan to double pipeline capacity from 500,000 barrels per day to 1.1 million barrels.

Tribes immediately seek formal hearing on Dakota Access Pipeline expansion.

Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. (Photo by Mark Trahant, File)
Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. (Photo by Mark Trahant, File)

November 2019: At the hearing, Energy Transfer Partners argued that the pipeline increasing capacity would not increase risk of a spill and that the company had not cut any corners in construction of the pipeline.

Opponents argue the exact opposite, saying the increase in capacity adds to the likelihood of a spill that would damage multiple tribes' water supply.

February 2020: Ultimately, nearly three years since oil began being transferred through the pipeline, the North Dakota Public Service Commission votes unanimously to expand its capacity.

March 2020: A federal judge orders the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full environmental study on the pipeline. The judge says a more extensive review is necessary than the assessment that was completed for the easement approval.

July 6, 2020: A federal judge orders the Dakota Access Pipeline to shut down and remove all oil within 30 days, a huge win for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the other plaintiffs.

Highway sign leaving Standing Rock Reservation (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)
Highway sign leaving Standing Rock Reservation (Photo by Kolby KickingWoman)

While there are likely to be appeals from Energy Transfer, this win adds court precedent on the side of the tribes.

"It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock," Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the tribe, said in a statement. 

July 7, 2020: A federal judge rejects a request for an emergency order to delay the process of shutting down the pipeline while attorneys appeal a ruling to shutter it during the environmental review.

July 8, 2020: Energy Transfer Partners says in a statement to Indian Country Today: "DAPL is seeking appropriate relief from [the judge's] order through the established legal process. ... We have not yet taken any steps to begin shutting down the line."

Related: 'Historic day' for Standing Rock as pipeline company told to shut down, remove oil

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Kolby KickingWoman, Blackfeet/A'aniih is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today. He is from the great state of Montana and currently reports for the Washington Bureau. Follow him on Twitter - @KDKW_406. Email - kkickingwoman@indiancountrytoday.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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