#NoDAPL: Big Win at Standing Rock as Army Corps Denies Easement for Dakota Access Pipeline

Activists celebrate at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Dec. 4, 2016, outside Cannon Ball, N.D., after hearing that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied the current route for the Dakota Access pipeline.
Activists celebrate at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Dec. 4, 2016, outside Cannon Ball, N.D., after hearing that the Army Corps of Engineers has denied the current route for the Dakota Access pipeline.

Updated Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, 5:30 a.m. EST: Predictably, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners—owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline—have made it clear that they aren't going anywhere and that the Army Corps statement was just politricks as usual.


Read the full statement below:

For more than three years now, Dakota Access Pipeline has done nothing but play by the rules. The Army Corps of Engineers agrees, and has said so publicly and in federal court filings. The Corps’ review process and its decisions have been ratified by two federal courts. The Army Corps confirmed this again today when it stated its “policy decision” does “not alter the Army’s position that the Corps’ prior reviews and actions have comported with legal requirements.”

In spite of consistently stating at every turn that the permit for the crossing of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe granted in July 2016, comported with all legal requirements, including the use of an environmental assessment, rather than an environmental impact statement, the Army Corps now seeks to engage in additional review and analysis of alternative locations for the pipeline.

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 favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.

As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.

This statement should come as no surprise. Nothing in the Army Corps statement even hinted that the pipeline would not move forward, but the water protectors at Standing Rock have fought and bled to reach even this moment. If they had sat down while the U.S. government and its corporate cronies bulldozed through the blood and bones of their ancestors, they would not be fighting, living to see another day.

I salute them. And I salute all who answered their call.

Black people in the United States have been fighting these same white supremacist capitalist forces for centuries, but we still fight. We call a win a win even though we haven't won it all. We move forward with clear eyes toward victory, and the people at Standing Rock should be allowed to do the same—to celebrate and feel relief for just a moment, to see purpose to move forward, even though it's not over.

Because as I previously reported, this is not over.


After months of protests and prayer vigils, escalating police brutality and political neglect, Standing Rock Sioux tribal Chairman David Archambault II announced to water protectors Sunday (pdf) that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will explore different pathways for the Dakota Access Pipeline, USA Today reports.


“I wanted you to hear it from me,” Archambault said.

The Army Corps denied the easement that would have allowed construction to continue. An easement is defined as “property interest that allows the holder of the easement (in this case, the owners of the pipeline), to use property that he or she does not own or possess.”


Archambault received the news from Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, who released the following statement:

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”


She adds, “The consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis.”

As previously reported by The Root, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior released a joint statement in September announcing the temporary halt of construction around the 20-mile area surrounding Lake Oahe in Cannon Ball, N.D.


The Dakota Access Pipeline Project, also known as the Bakken Pipeline Project, was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on July 27 after strong pushback from several tribes. The project is a 1,172-mile, 30-inch-diameter pipeline developed by Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil. The owners of the Bakken-Dakota Access Pipeline Project are Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, with a joint 38.25 percent stake; MarEn Bakken with a 36.75 percent interest; and Phillips 66 with a 25 percent share.

The pipeline is to transport approximately 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken-Three Forks oil-production areas in North Dakota, across South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois before terminating in Pakota, Ill. The oil would then be transported across the country to other markets, including refineries in the Midwest and on the East Coast.


Construction of the pipeline has desecrated sacred burial grounds and threatened the water safety of indigenous tribes and others who live further down the Missouri River. Though President Barack Obama’s silence on this issue has been increasingly loud in the presence of militarized police brutality against water protectors at Standing Rock—including water cannons in frigid temperature, rubber bullets, dogs and tear gas—Archambault expressed his gratitude to him for the decision to halt the pipeline.

US President Barack Obama (C) talks with Chairman of the Standing Rock Soiux Tribal Nation David Archambault II (L) during the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, June 13, 2014.
President Barack Obama (center) talks with Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II (left) during the Cannon Ball Flag Day Celebration in Cannon Ball, N.D., on June 13, 2014.

Archambault also acknowledged that the movement at Standing Rock—which brought indigenous tribes and First Nations from all across North America together, along with nonindigenous allies—was started by tribal youths. His statement reads in part:

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes. We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.

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

We want to thank everyone who played a role in advocating for this cause. We thank the tribal youth who initiated this movement. We thank the millions of people around the globe who expressed support for our cause. We thank the thousands of people who came to the camps to support us, and the tens of thousands who donated time, talent, and money to our efforts to stand against this pipeline in the name of protecting our water. We especially thank all of the other tribal nations and jurisdictions who stood in solidarity with us, and we stand ready to stand with you if and when your people are in need.

Treaties are paramount law and must be respected, and we welcome dialogue on how to continue to honor that moving forward. We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our Indigenous peoples.


Archambault also said that he hopes President-elect Donald Trump “respects this decision and understands the complex process that led us to this point.” Trump, who owns stock in pipeline owners Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, has voiced his support for the continuation of the pipeline through Standing Rock territory.

Read Archambault’s full statement here.

CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 04: Native American and other activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it will not grant an easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under a lake on the Sioux Tribes Standing Rock reservation, ending a months-long standoff.
Native American and other activists at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation outside Cannon Ball, N.D., celebrate after learning the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under a lake on the Sioux tribe’s Standing Rock reservation on Dec. 4, 2016.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

While this is excellent news, we cannot turn our eyes away from Standing Rock just yet.

Last month, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed an executive order for an emergency evacuation to take place no later than Dec. 5, Monday. Water protectors were told to evacuate the Oceti Sakowin (Seven Council Fires) Camp—the main camp near the pipeline construction site.


On Friday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that law enforcement had the full support of the Justice Department, without condemning the violence that water protectors have already faced at their hands. Lynch also suggested that more assistance would be deployed, without specifying what that assistance would look like.

With her statement, she does nothing but suggest that there is a reciprocal exchange of violence happening, when it is only police attacking protectors—and not the other way around.


As previously reported by The Root, thousands of veterans have traveled to Standing Rock to stand in solidarity. And a delegation of Cuban-trained doctors announced Friday that they were also traveling to serve in solidarity.


On Sunday, Gov. Dalrymple said that the Army Corps decision was “a serious mistake.”

The decision today by the Obama Administration to further postpone any action on the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline is a serious mistake. It does nothing to resolve the issue, and worst of all it prolongs the serious problems faced by North Dakota law enforcement as they try to maintain public safety. The administration’s lack of action also prolongs the dangerous situation of having protesters camping during the winter on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ property.

The federal courts have already determined that the project developer has met or exceeded all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ requirements to build the pipeline.

Senator Hoeven, Congressman Cramer and I have repeatedly asked for the easement to be granted and for the pipeline crossing to move forward so that the federal government can bring this to a conclusion. It’s unfortunate that this project has become a political issue rather than one based on engineering science.


This won’t be over until it’s over.


But the Army Corps' decision is a victory that speaks to the unwavering spirit of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. They refused to be silenced and they refused to be moved. And they made the entire world pay attention.

As MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell said in September, “That we still have Native Americans left in this country to be arrested for trespassing on their own land is testament not to the mercy of the genocidal invaders who seized and occupied their land, but to the stunning strength and the 500 years of endurance and the undying dignity of the people who were here long before us.”


Editor’s note: Environmental racism is one of the most critical issues that we face, and it must be rooted out and eradicated wherever it thrives. Find out what items are still needed at the water protectors' camps here. To follow the movement on social media, follow the hashtags #NoDAPL, #RezpectOurWater and #StandWithStandingRock.

Also on The Root: #NoDAPL: Unarmed Water Protectors Met With Violent Militarized Police Response