It only took eight months and countless incidents of police torture, but the North Dakota pipeline construction will now be halted. On Dec 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it is denying the easement main developer Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) requires to drill under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. Army officials issued a formal request for an environmental impact study, with full public input and analysis.
Hold the fireworks and champagne, though.
Make no mistake: this is a monumental decision. I am absolutely thrilled the Army Corps of Engineers have finally done the right thing and ordered an environmental impact study. President Obama is holding them to proper protocol, and the process for a full statement could take months.
Great news for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, water protectors, and anyone who gives a damn about the environment and civil rights. Not so great for ETP, who has been almost villainous in their pursuit of the pipeline. With $3.8 million at stake, they’re getting desperate. They released a statement that they are fully committed to completing the pipeline without any rerouting. The environmental impact statement - which is required under US environmental law but was never originally completed - is slated to take several months, and poses a huge problem for ETP and their partner, Sunoco Logistics Partners.
Their constant announcements to the media and the general population were not just impetuous public relations but an attempt to calm down and appease their shareholders and contractual partners. According to DAPL’s’ own words in court documents, protester-driven delays have cost the company $100 million, with each additional month costing them millions more. According to their contracts, if oil is not flowing by January 1, 2017, investors can legally cut their losses and abandon the project.
Now I understand the desperation. Especially since the price of oil has plummeted since the original contracts were signed two years ago. However, rumor has it that some investors wanted this pipeline to be completed so that the US would feel too invested in oil to devote time and money into alternative energy. So anything is still possible.
The whole project itself seems driven by rather insane choices, though. Rushing to get the pipeline into the ground was driven by recklessness, with ETP choosing to build before they had all necessary permits. Unfortunately, previous requests from the government to halt construction were blatantly ignored- like when DAPL’s workers shut of floodlights for several hours to mask the arrival of the drill beside Lake Oahe despite orders. If anyone thinks they’re just going to roll over and stop construction, please let me have a toke of whatever you’re smoking, because I’d like to feel that positive and optimistic about controlling corporate greed too.
We may all need some of that positivity come the new year as well. With the new administration, DAPL may be given permission to proceed with their planned route. President-elect Donald Trump has already gone on record in support of oil pipelines and most recently stated that he supports the completion of DAPL near the reservation. Shocker, given that until recently (as in, until the media started reporting on it) Trump owned between $500,000 - $1 million worth of shares in ETP. As of last May, Trump also had $100,000 - $250,00 invested in Phillips 66, another company that owns a quarter of the oil line according to the Associated Press. Add the fact that ETP’s CEO Kelcy Warren also donated over $100,000 to Trump’s camp and campaign, and you can see why he probably thought everything would be smooth sailing. It would explain why his statement from Sunday reads:
“The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favour of currying favour with a narrow and extreme political constituency.”
Claiming that this move by President Obama is “purely political” is wrong, by the way. That decision was made by the books. But what’s even more ironic is the statement released by North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, in regards to this decision.
“I hoped even a lawless president wouldn’t continue to ignore the rule of law. However, it was becoming increasingly clear he was punting this issue down the road...I’m encouraged we will restore law and order next month when we get a President who will not thumb his nose at the rule of the law.”
Are Republicans so ridiculously ignorant that they’re unable to see their own hypocrisy?
Thousands of protesters mobilized to exercise their first amendment rights. Given the fact that US environmental law was not properly exercised, they were completely justified. The threat of a disastrous oil spill so near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, their sacred tribal grounds, and their drinking water was worth fighting against, and aboriginals and activists got people to care. Of course the results would be political. How the hell do they think democracy works? Their outrage over Obama’s political decision is golden though, given the fact that ETP is looking forward to Trump’s presidency beginning so he can overrule this decision and ignore the “rule of law.” As so many of them have been saying over the last few weeks: face the facts and accept it. Yes, Trump won the electoral college and is president-elect. But how about facing the fact that the Obama administration has made a decision based on the will of the people instead of corporations? Have they forgotten that the American people, their lives, their health, and their homes are supposed to be more important than corporate interests? You don’t get to insult a political action while simultaneously expecting another political action to be applied so you can shut down those opposing you.
The fight isn’t over. Even though the Sioux Chief has formally asked the DAPL protesters to go home, I think they need to be more vigilant than ever- considering it took 2,000 veterans arriving at Standing Rock over the weekend for police to move their barricade slightly further down the road. The militarized police have still not left, and are poised to subdue the water protectors instead of facing the drilling equipment to ensure that no further construction occurs. Seeing as how that would be against the law, the police should be focused on the construction workers from DAPL instead of facing off against the water protectors.
There are so many factors at play here that could restart the pipeline construction at a moment’s notice. It’s why this victory is so fragile, and why peaceful protests need to continue to ensure legal protocols are followed, and corporations and politicians - current or incoming - are held accountable.