The Obama Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers officially denied the easement to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota after a many months-long campaign by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps will undertake an environmental impact statement (EIS) to look at potential alternative routes for the pipeline.
"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," Assistant Sec. of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a statement. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II celebrated the news. "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," he said.
"The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama Administration for this historic decision. 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."
The 1,172-mile pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels per day from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to a refinery in Illinois. The $3.7 billion project was entering its final stretch. More than 80 percent of the pipeline has already been constructed.
According to a tweet from Dallas Goldtooth of Indigenous Environmental Network, "It is NOT a straight DENIAL but rather a MAJOR suspension on a decision pending a limited EIS. The U.S. Army Corps will conduct a limited Environmental Impact Statement on the river crossing and explore possibilities for alternative routes. This is a win! A huge win!"
Here's what Interior Sec. Sally Jewell tweeted today:
Thousands of veterans arrived at the Oceti Sakowin protest camp today to act as an unarmed militia and peaceful human shields to protect the Indigenous activists from police brutality.
"The water protectors have done it," Greenpeace spokesperson Lilian Molina said. "This is a monumental victory in the fight to protect Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Today's decision shows that when people unite to stand for what's right, they can alter the course of history.
"We are confident that a thorough environmental impact statement will show that this pipeline will jeopardize land and water supply no matter where they attempt to place it. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must keep dirty fossil fuels in the ground.
"Energy Transfer Partners, Governor Dalrymple and President-Elect Trump must respect today's decision and recognize the will of the people to stop this disastrous pipeline. The fight doesn't end today. Any attempt to circumvent the easement denial will be met with staunch resistance."
Here's the rest of Archambault statement:
Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision. With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.
We hope that Kelcey Warren, Governor Dalrymple, and the incoming Trump administration respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point. When it comes to infrastructure development in Indian Country and with respect to treaty lands, we must strive to work together to reach decisions that reflect the multifaceted considerations of tribes.
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.
To our local law enforcement, I hope that we can work together to heal our relationship as we all work to protect the lives and safety of our people. I recognize the extreme stress that the situation caused and look forward to a future that reflects more mutual understanding and respect.
Again, we are deeply appreciative that the Obama Administration took the time and effort to genuinely consider the broad spectrum of tribal concerns. In a system that has continuously been stacked against us from every angle, it took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship, and we will be forever grateful.