Construction of a controversial crude oil pipeline, which will span 1,168 miles from North Dakota to Illinois, has been protested relentlessly by Native American tribes for several reasons. Their protesting, which has put construction at a stand-still for nearly a week, has caused the production company, Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, to agree to halt construction at the protest site for now.
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and Lakota Sioux tribes have said since the pipeline’s inception that it could pollute a crucial source of drinking water for the tribes and it intrudes on their sacred lands.
The environmental group Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which seeks an injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lawsuit states,
“The construction and operation of the pipeline, as authorized by the Corps, threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance to the tribe.”
A hearing in Washington, D.C. will hear testimony from the tribe on August 24th, where they seek an injunction against the Army Corps because they approved the pipeline and permits. For the tribe, the timing of the approved permits is horrible, as just a few days later the Obama Administration issued new regulations for federal agencies.
The new guidelines essentially state,
“Before they approve a project like this, they have to do what they call a ‘climate test.’ They have to do an analysis of what this particular project will mean in terms of climate change.”
However, since the permits went through just days before these guidelines were released, no testing or reports on the impact this will have on climate change has been conducted. As many environmentalists point out, this method of extraction produces 17% more greenhouse gases than standard crude oil construction.
Actress and environmental activist Shailene Woodley stood by the tribe and expressed what their concerns were:
“It’s not a matter of if the pipeline breaks. It’s a matter of when. As we know, all pipelines break.”
When the pipeline breaks, the water source for the tribes and other locals will be forever ruined, worsening the water crisis that the world is already facing and likely displacing Native Americans on their own reservation.
The production company filed a lawsuit against several protestors for alleged threats to the safety of construction workers, but Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault has maintained that the protests have been peaceful throughout the stand-off.
“The position of our tribe is clear — There’s no place for threats, violence or criminal activity. That is simply not our way.”