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Army Approves Construction of Dakota Access Pipeline

The Army approved the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Tuesday, paving the way for an infrastructure project that has been surrounded by protest and controversy.

Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, announced the decision to Congress, saying he was ready to offer the pipeline's owner a 30-year easement on a disputed patch of land.

The move drew outrage from opponents, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation in North Dakota sits less than a mile from the proposed pipeline route. And it drew cheers from supporters, who said the planning process for the completion of the $3.7 billion project had already lasted too long.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, Dave Archambault II, responded to the decision by vowing to fight it in court. "As native peoples, we have been knocked down again," he said in statement. "But we will get back up, we will rise above the greed and corruption that has plagued our peoples since first contact."

The pipeline is set to run under the Missouri River near the reservation. It is opposed by many members of the tribe. Construction of the route has become a global rallying point for environmental and tribal activism, drawing thousands of people to a sprawling protest camp and sometimes prompting clashes with authorities.

They had objected to the pipeline's path running so close to the source of the tribe's drinking water, noting that any spill could poison water supplies for it and others downstream. Members of the tribe also said the pipeline would cross through sacred ancestral lands.

The move comes two weeks after President Trump ordered an expedited review of the pipeline, part of his administration's goal of supporting fossil fuel development and lowering barriers for major infrastructure initiatives. The project would carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day.

In the decision, Mr. Speer said he would halt the preparation of an environmental impact statement meant to assess the effects of the pipeline, adding that he had sufficient information to support approval.

The move will allow for the completion of the last mile and a half of the 1,172-mile project, connecting oil production areas in North Dakota to a crude oil terminal near Patoka, Ill. The pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

The decision prompted immediate outcry from people within the protest camp, which now numbers about 400 people, according to Manape LaMere, 38, a leader living by the route since October.

"All of our hearts are broken," said Linda Black Elk, part of the protest's healer council, in an emotional video live from the camp. "I'm just going to ask you guys to keep us all in your prayers. Pray for the water. Pray for the people. Pray for the water protectors. Pray for the tribe."

The decision left some feeling whiplashed. Two months ago, under the Obama administration and in the face of global protests, the Army said that it would explore alternative routes for the pipeline.

In a statement on Tuesday, Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota, a Republican, applauded the Army's decision. "This is a key step toward the completion of this important infrastructure project, which has faced months of politically driven delays and will allow for safe transport of North Dakota product to market."

[Source: By Julie Turkewitz, The New York Times, Denver, 07Feb17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 09Feb17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.