Obama Administration Temporarily Suspends Oil Pipeline In North Dakota

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After months of demonstrations to put a stop to the construction of an oil pipeline that would break centuries-old treaties with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in North Dakota, the federal government moved to suspend the operation temporarily.

The decision was announced on Friday by three federal agencies that said construction would pause on the most disputed part of the proposed 1,200 mile-long Dakota Access pipeline.

The joint statement from the Departments of Justice, the Interior, and the Army said that construction will be suspended 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe, where the Standing Rock Sioux get their drinking water. The government also asked for construction to be halted on the rest of the pipeline as well. Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, did not respond to the announcement, which doesn’t affect any of the other areas of the $3.7 billion construction that would cross the Missouri River.

The statement also noted that the departments and the Army Crops of Engineers needed to facilitate a “serious discussion” with tribal leaders on such large-scale infrastructure projects as the access pipeline.

“When there’s a wrong that keeps continuing to happen, it’s O.K. to stand up against that wrong,” David Archambault II, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux is quoted as saying. “That’s all we did. I’m just so thankful that agencies are starting to listen.”

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Demonstrations involving around 200 indigenous tribes, as well as celebrities, and environmental activists turned violent last week, with tensions flaring on both sides. A federal judge ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux in an ongoing lawsuit they brought against the U.S. Corps of Engineers about the permit process for a large-scale oil pipeline that could potentially threaten the water source of millions. There is also no timeline for how long the construction will stop, or when it might resume.

Many of those who oppose the Dakota Access pipeline compared it to the Keystone pipeline, which was stopped by Obama less than a year ago. The president has shown his support for environmentalists, along with doubling the area of protected land in the U.S. last February.

“In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites,” the joint statement noted. “It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”

Jan Hasselman, a lawyer with Earthjustice, an environmental legal group representing the Standing Rock Sioux said, “Today’s news is a stunning development. It vindicates what the tribe has been saying from the beginning: The process was wrong, and the legal standards for projects like these need reform.”

 

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About the author: Evan Vitkovski

 

An American writer, filmmaker, journalist, and blogger living in Taipei, Taiwan. So many stories to tell, so little time.

 

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