The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will grant Energy Transfer Partners the final easement to finish the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), according to a court filing Tuesday. The permit will allow construction for a tunnel under Lake Oahe, a reservoir that is part of the Missouri River.
This news comes just two months after the Obama administration ordered the Army Corps to conduct a full environmental review of the 1,170-mile pipeline and two weeks since President Donald Trump signed two executive actions to advance DAPL and the Keystone XL.
According to CNBC, the move is "almost certain to spark a legal battle and could lead to clashes at camps near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where hundreds of protesters are still camped out in opposition to the project."
"Donald Trump will not build his Dakota Access Pipeline without a fight," Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said. "The granting of an easement, without any environmental review or tribal consultation, is not the end of this fight—it is the new beginning. Expect mass resistance far beyond what Trump has seen so far."
This announcement comes after thousands of environmental and indigenous activists spent months living in camps near the Standing Rock reservation and pipeline construction site. Just last week, 76 water protectors were arrested following a clash with law enforcement at the reservation. The arrests came a day after federal officials claimed that the final controversial easement for DAPL had been granted.
More recently, thousands of U.S. military veterans said they are readying their return to Standing Rock. "We are committed to the people of Standing Rock, we are committed to nonviolence and we will do everything within our power to ensure that the environment and human life are respected. That pipeline will not get completed. Not on our watch," Anthony Diggs, a spokesman for Veterans Stand, said.
In addition to granting the permit to Energy Transfer Partners for the $3.8 billion project, the Army Corps said it will no longer prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, which the Obama administration ordered early December.
"The ongoing Environmental Impact Statement process was deemed a necessary step forward by both the Standing Rock Tribe and the Army Corps of Engineers," Mary Sweeters, Greenpeace USA climate campaigner, said. "The Dakota Access Pipeline poses a significant threat to the water supply of Standing Rock and to millions of other people downstream. Its construction has already desecrated sacred burial grounds and other historical sites nearby."
Robert Speer, acting secretary of the Army, said in a statement that "Today's announcement will allow for the final step, which is granting of the easement. Once that it done, we will have completed all the tasks in the Presidential Memorandum of January 24, 2017."
Outrage from the environmental community on today's announcement is immense.
"Trump thinks he's getting what he wants, but the people who've been emboldened by the worldwide fight against the Dakota Access pipeline won't quietly back away," 350.org Executive Director May Boeve said. "Indigenous leaders, landowners and climate activists are ready challenge this decision in the courts and in the streets—as we have each time the fossil fuel industry steamrolls over human rights for their own profits."
"By putting corporate polluter profits above the people's well-being, future and access to clean, safe drinking water, Donald Trump is once again showing where his priorities lie," Brune said. "Trump's dangerous and legally questionable attempt to ignore the environmental review will be met with fierce resistance by a broad coalition of 300 tribes and millions of Americans."
Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica called the announcement "sickening as it is predictable."
"We stand behind them in the #NoDAPL fight and will put financial pressure on the banks financing this destructive pipeline project. The people's resistance to keep fossil fuels in the ground will not disappear."