The underground Dakota Access Piipeline would transport 470,000 barrels of crude oil a day, which would be sent to markets and refineries in the Midwest, East Coast and Gulf Coast regions, according to Energy Transfer Crude Oil Co. (219358)
Credit: Dakota Access Pipeline Map

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, environmentalists and allies achieved a major victory this week—for now.

Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided not to grant an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

“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,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II in a statement. “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 Sioux tribe, and their allies, fought a billion-dollar pipeline designed to carry crude oil from North Dakota to a refinery in Illinois. The fear among tribe members was that the $3.7 billion pipeline could pollute water supplies and destroy land that the tribe considers sacred. Originally, the pipeline was designed to pass near Bismarck, N.D., but the residents in the mostly white town fought against it and won.

Dakota Access Pipeline is owned by Energy Transfer Partners. In a statement, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners responded to the Corps of Engineers decision.

“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,” read the statement. “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.”

The news of the pipeline also reached environmentalist circles. Lindsey Allen, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, said this victory is what happened when the movement takes leadership from indigenous communities.

“We know we are entering a period of great uncertainty and that a strong and effective environmental movement is needed, now more than ever,” said Allen in a statement. “And we know that we must transition away from an outdated and dirty fossil fuel economy to a cleaner more vibrant economic future. For all of us who stood in support of the leadership that was shown by the Standing Rock Sioux and hundreds of other tribes, we know there are more challenges ahead.”

But the tide may be turning after just a few days.

Monday, Energy Transfer Partners asked a federal judge to grant the permit saying that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responded to political pressure and claimed the protesters engaged in an “escalating campaign of violence and disorder.” In another development, CNBC reported that a civilian leader made the decision to deny an easement for the pipeline, but was told by officials that Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Joe-Ellen Darcy has final approval.

Darcy allegedly ruled in favor of an easement, but said in a memo that more work needed to be done looking for alternate routes and the Sioux need to be included in the process.

With winter approaching, some protesters are debating whether or not to battle the cold or leave for the season. In the meantime, Archambault II remains grateful for those who came out to fight.

“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,” Archambault II stated. “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.”