CANNON BALL, N.D. — Federal regulators announced Sunday they will not grant an easement for a controversial oil pipeline to cross near Sioux Territory and go under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
That will effectively force a reroute of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that hundreds of protesters have been demonstrating against for months. Numerous Hawaii activists have been involved in the protests, braving cold, snow and ice to help force attention on the concerns of the Sioux that the pipeline poses a threat to drinking water supplies, among other issues.
The Department of the Army and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the decision to deny the request for an easement and instead will prepare an environmental impact statement of alternative routes.
“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,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is about a half-mile south of the planned pipeline crossing, also issued a statement expressing gratitude to the Obama administration for its decision. The tribe thanked what it said were thousands of demonstrators who had come to the site and millions of other people around the world for their support.
The tribe also expressed hope that the Trump administration would let the decision stand.
According to the Corps press release, the Dakota Access Pipeline is an approximately 1,172-mile pipeline that would connect the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline is 30 inches in diameter and is projected to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day, with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels.
The decision came as U.S. Rep Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joined the protesters. She traveled to Standing Rock as part of a movement of veterans who had vowed to protect demonstrators from efforts to evict them as soon as Monday.
Just two hours before the Army issued its statement, Gabbard stood on the wind-swept winter prairie, surrounded by dozens of U.S. veterans, some of them dressed in full fatigues. She talked about why it was important to fight alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to block the construction of the pipeline.
“It’s unfortunate that some in the media and some who are talking about this issue are trying to pit two sides of our community and our country against each other, those who are choosing so-called economic development and jobs pitted against those who are standing up for protecting water,” Gabbard said.
“This is not the choice that people here are faced with. This is not the choice that the leaders of our country are faced with. To me the choice is very simple, you protect the water that supports the life of people and the life of our planet.”