Drone Footage Shows Dakota Access Pipeline Company Ignored Request to Halt Construction on Disputed Land
By Steve Horn
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has confirmed to DeSmog that Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, has ignored the Obama administration's Sept. 9 request to voluntarily halt construction in a disputed area, 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe and the Missouri River.
The confirmation came in the aftermath of a video published by drone pilot Shiyé Bidziil on the news website Indian Country Today. The video was featured on Nov. 2 and offers an airborne view of pipeline construction—coupled with heavily guarded concrete fortresses around key construction locales—in close proximity to the Missouri River.
"The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws," reads the initial Sept. 9 statement disseminated by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Interior and Army Corps.
"Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe."
After showing the video to Curry Graham, director of public affairs for the Army Corps, Graham confirmed to DeSmog that Energy Transfer Partners has proceeded with construction inside of the administration's requested zone. Graham also said construction has halted just short of the federal property bordering Lake Oahe.
"After the DC courts ruled in favor of the federal government, federal agencies asked the Dakota Access pipeline company to voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe," Graham told DeSmog. "The key word is 'voluntary,' and the company chose to proceed with construction. As to why they did this, you will have to contact Energy Transfer Partners to ask that question."
Which DeSmog did. Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson Vicki Granado responded, "We are constructing along the four-state route in accordance with applicable laws, and in areas where we have the necessary local, state, and federal permits and approvals," Granado told DeSmog.
The Department of Justice and Department of Interior did not respond to a request for comment.
On Oct. 31, President Obama said the Army Corps is considering a reroute of the Dakota Access pipeline in this area and will let federal agency regulatory processes "play out" in the next several weeks. It remains unclear how the pipeline could be rerouted if construction is already occurring up to the Missouri River and Lake Oahe.
.@BernieSanders Calls 4 Stopping #DakotaAccessPipeline as #Obama Waffles https://t.co/qyNZgZlyZY @billmckibben @350 @IENearth @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1478114184.0
Drone videographer Bidziil secured the footage after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR), which was supposed to be in place from Oct. 26 through Nov. 5, but ended after coming under public criticism.*
The no-fly zone was initially put in place because protestors at the Standing Rock encampment in North Dakota had allegedly fired arrows at a law enforcement helicopter and used their own drone to scan the area which was shot down by law enforcement. Donnell Hushka, the Public Information Officer for Morton County, North Dakota, did not respond to a request for comment about whether the Morton County Sheriff's Department or another law enforcement agency had issued an incident report pertaining to the alleged incident involving arrows.
In 2014, another restricted flight zone was also put in place in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of protests erupting after the shooting of Michael Brown by law enforcement. The Associated Press obtained audio documentation demonstrating that the FAA had issued the restriction, in that case, in the attempt to shoe away airborne media.
Lee Rowland, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, pointed to the Ferguson example as a reason to be wary of initial explanations for the necessity of such temporary no-fly zones.
"Because the FAA now has a history of being caught on tape implementing a no-fly zone for the specific purpose of censoring media flights, I'm not sure they're entitled to an assumption of good faith that this no-fly zone had been put in place for valid reasons," Rowland told DeSmog.
"Everyone Feels Broken"
Explaining how he felt about the footage his drone captured, Bidziil expressed a sense of consternation.
"Everybody's mad. Everyone feels hurt. Everyone feels broken, but we can't let them break us," he told Indian Country Today. "We just have to stand here and do what we can."
Greenpeace USA spokesperson Lilian Molina also responded to the news, pointing to Energy Transfer Partner's recent sordid history of environmental regulatory violations.
"To think Energy Transfer Partners would respect a voluntary request to be decent, even one by the President of the United States, was wishful thinking. If the Obama administration really wants to pause construction, as the President suggested he does, it needs to continue to suspend ETP's permits to build under the Missouri River," said Molina.
"This debacle also shows the need to make the Army Corps of Engineers' permitting process much more transparent, with a full environmental review and thorough, participatory tribal consultation."
The Obama administration currently is conducting formal, government-to-government consultations with Native American tribes across the U.S. in order to obtain tribal input on how federal decisions are made about major infrastructure projects. The final consultation is set for November 21 via teleconference, with four more sessions slated between now and then, including the November 17 consultation in Rapid City, a few hours drive from Standing Rock.
'I Have Never Seen Anything Like This' via @EcoWatch https://t.co/QXkVYOXl4O https://t.co/HYMmCA6w9W— Josh Fox (@Josh Fox)1478199810.0
*FAA's website now shows the TFR back in place, starting back on the day we began working on this story on Nov. 4 and running through Nov. 15.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a sweeping climate bill on Thursday that would have put the commonwealth on a path to eliminating carbon emissions by 2050.
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By Ajit Niranjan
World leaders and businesses are not putting enough money into adapting to dangerous changes in the climate and must "urgently step up action," according to a report published Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Adaptation Has a Long Way to Go<p>The Adaptation Gap Report, now in its 5th year, finds "huge gaps" between what world leaders agreed to do under the 2015 <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/5-years-paris-climate-agreement/a-55901139" target="_blank">Paris Agreement</a> and what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from climate change.</p><p>A review by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative of almost 1,700 examples of climate adaptation found that a third were in the early stages of implementation — and only 3% had reached the point of reducing risks.</p><p>Disasters like storms and droughts have grown stronger than they should be because people have warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. The world has heated by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and is on track to warm by about 3°C by the end of the century.</p><p>If world leaders <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-performance-index-how-far-have-we-come/a-55846406" target="_blank">deliver on recent pledges</a> to bring emissions to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/joe-bidens-climate-pledges-are-they-realistic/a-56173821" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">net-zero</a> by the middle of the century, they could almost limit warming to 2°C. The target of the Paris Agreement, however, is to reach a target well below that — ideally 1.5°C. </p><p>There are two ways, scientists say, to lessen the pain that warming will bring: mitigating climate change by cutting carbon pollution and adapting to the hotter, less stable world it brings.</p>
The Cost of Climate Adaptation<p>About three-quarters of the world's countries have national plans to adapt to climate change, according to the report, but most lack the regulations, incentives and funding to make them work.</p><p>More than a decade ago, rich countries most responsible for climate change pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poorer countries. UNEP says it is "impossible to answer" whether that goal has been met, while an OECD study published in November found that between 2013 and 2018, the target sum had not once been achieved. Even in 2018, which recorded the highest level of contributions, rich countries were still $20 billion short.</p><p>The yearly adaptation costs for developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to at least double by the end of the decade as temperatures rise, and will hit $280-500 billion by 2050, according to the report.</p><p>But failing to adapt is even more expensive.</p><p>When powerful storms like cyclones Fani and Bulbul struck South Asia, early-warning systems allowed governments to move millions of people out of danger at short notice. Storms of similar strength that have hit East Africa, like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/zimbabwe-after-cyclone-idai-building-climate-friendly-practices/a-54251885" target="_blank">cyclones Idai</a> and Kenneth, have proved more deadly because fewer people were evacuated before disaster struck.</p><p>The Global Commission on Adaptation estimated in 2019 that a $1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, buildings, agriculture, mangroves and water resources could reap $7.1 trillion in benefits from economic activity and avoided costs when disasters strike.</p>
Exploring Nature-Based Solutions<p>The report also highlights how restoring nature can protect people from climate change while benefiting local communities and ecology.</p><p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-fires-risk-climate-change-bushfires-australia-california-extreme-weather-firefighters/a-54817927" target="_blank">Wildfires</a>, for instance, could be made less punishing by restoring grasslands and regularly burning the land in controlled settings. Indigenous communities from Australia to Canada have done this for millennia in a way that encourages plant growth while reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. Reforestation, meanwhile, can stop soil erosion and flooding during heavy rainfall while trapping carbon and protecting wildlife.</p><p>In countries like Brazil and Malaysia, governments could better protect coastal homes from floods and storms by restoring <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mudflats-mangroves-and-marshes-the-great-coastal-protectors/a-50628747" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mangroves</a> — tangled trees that grow in tropical swamps. As well as anchoring sediments and absorbing the crash of waves, mangroves can store carbon, help fish populations grow and boost local economies through tourism. </p><p>While nature-based solutions are often cheaper than building hard infrastructure, their funding makes up a "tiny fraction" of adaptation finance, the report authors wrote. An analysis of four global climate funds that spent $94 billion on adaptation projects found that just $12 billion went to nature-based solutions and little of this was spent implementing projects on the ground.</p><p>But little is known about their long-term effectiveness. At higher temperatures, the effects of climate change may be so great that they overwhelm natural defenses like mangroves.</p><p>By 2050, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rising-sea-levels-should-we-let-the-ocean-in-a-50704953/a-50704953" target="_blank">coastal floods</a> that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to a 2019 report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard on climate science. This could force dense cities on low-lying coasts to build higher sea walls, like in Indonesia and South Korea, or evacuate entire communities from sinking islands, like in Fiji.</p><p>It's not a case of replacing infrastructure, said Matthias Garschagen, a geographer at Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and IPCC author, who was not involved in the UNEP report. "The case for nature-based solutions is often misinterpreted as a battle... but they're part of a toolkit that we've ignored for too long."</p>
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