The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said that it is “ready to fight” the Trump administration’s push to finish the Dakota Access Pipeline, after U.S. Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) announced that plans are moving forward.
Hoeven said Tuesday evening that Acting Army Secretary Robert Speer has directed the Army Corps of Engineers “to proceed with easement needed to complete” the oil pipeline. Officials from Standing Rock responded, claiming any such move would be illegal, with an internal review of the project underway.
“The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the [Environmental Impact Assessment] and issue the easement,” the tribe said.
“The Corps must review the Presidential Memorandum, notify Congress, and actually grant the easement,” Standing Rock officials added. “We have not received formal notice that the EIS has been suspended or withdrawn.”
Hoeven’s announcement came weeks after the company building Dakota Access failed to get a federal judge in Washington to enjoin the Army EIS, which was launched during the final days of the Obama administration.
Energy Transfer Partners said that District Judge James Boasberg should order the two-year-long review to be delayed, until he rules on the legality of an Army decision to halt a pipeline crossing under Lake Oahe. The Standing Rock Sioux consider the waters to be sacred.
Boasberg denied the request on Jan. 18. He had declined, in September, to stop construction of Dakota Access, in litigation brought by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
It was after Boasberg’s September ruling, when Obama administration officials started to more carefully scrutinize Dakota Access plans. In December, they announced the Lake Oahe crossing would paused, pending further review.
In its first week in power, however, the Trump administration prioritized easement for Dakota Access construction. On January 24, President Trump issued an executive order calling for the expedition of both the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Highlighting the perils of this move, just one day before: 50,000 gallons oil spilled onto indigenous lands north of the U.S.-Canada border, in Saskatchewan.
The move to grease the wheels for dirty energy infrastructure sets the Trump administration up for more clashes with protesters, after mass rallies formed in response to last week’s clumsy roll-out of draconian immigration restrictions (described by many as a “Muslim Ban,” for Trump’s campaign promises and the order’s discriminatory measures).
Demonstrators have camped out for the past few months in North Dakota, to protest construction of the Dakota Access pipeline – despite the site’s remote location, freezing weather and law enforcement’s use of violent force on protesters. Before the Obama administration’s decision in December to pause construction under Lake Oahe, the pipeline protest camp’s population swelled to 5,000 people.