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Victory for Native Americans, Army denies pipeline


REUTERS

Victory for Native Americans, Army denies pipeline

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CANNON BALL – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Sunday it turned down a permit for a controversial pipeline project running through North Dakota, in a victory for Native Americans and climate activists who have protested against the project for several months.

A celebration erupted at the main protest camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others have been protesting the 1 172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline for months.

The line, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, had been complete except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.

That stretch required an easement from federal authorities, which delayed a decision on the permit twice, in an effort to consult further with the tribe.

“The Army will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record,” a statement from the U.S. Army said.

Protesters have said the $3.8 billion project could contaminate the water supply and damage sacred tribal lands.

“I hope they follow through here with this. They haven’t been following the law all along. So we’ll see – but this is a victory today for our people and our water,” said Gerad Kipp, 44, an irrigation engineer from Missoula, Montana and a Native American.

In a statement, Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II thanked activists for their support in the protest effort.

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision,” he said.

“We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement.”

Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, said in a statement the decision was based on a need to explore alternate routes for the pipeline. She said the best way to move forward was to explore alternate routes.

Protest organisers had for months argued that crossing the Missouri River adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation presented a danger to their water source. Protests grew over the months, with hundreds of veterans flocking to the camp in recent days to stand against what they say are aggressive tactics from law enforcement.

It is unclear what the pipeline route will be, however, and any route would still likely need to cross the Missouri River, probably upstream of Lake Oahe and closer to the state capital of Bismarck. Many pipelines travel under U.S. waterways already, and pipe is considered a safer way to transport crude oil than rail.

North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, nodded to the fact that next steps remain unclear, saying in a statement Sunday that the pipeline “still remains in limbo”.

What is also unclear as well is whether the incoming administration of Donald Trump may consider taking up Energy Transfer Partners’ request yet again, and approving it. Trump’s transition team last week said that he was supportive of the line, in addition to other pipeline development.

“We’re hopeful that when the Trump administration takes office it will look at all of the priorities it has and that putting at risk the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux isn’t on their list,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club

A spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners could not immediately be reached for comment. (Reuters)

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