New phase for Dakota Ac­cess Pipe­line protests

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - By James Macpher­son

BISMARCK, N.D. >> Po­lice and ac­tivists protest­ing the Dakota Ac­cess oil pipe­line are in a tense stand­off over the ac­tivists’ oc­cu­pa­tion of pri­vate land owned by the pipe­line de­vel­oper. Here’s a guide to the lat­est de­vel­op­ments and key back­ground about the protest:

The ori­gins

Dal­las-based En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners got fed­eral per­mits for the $3.8 bil­lion pipe­line in July, about two years af­ter it was an­nounced. The project is pro­jected to move a halfmil­lion bar­rels of crude oil daily from western North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to an ex­ist­ing pipe­line in Pa­toka, Illi­nois, where ship­pers can ac­cess Mid­west and Gulf Coast mar­kets.

Sup­port­ers say the pipe­line will have safe­guards against leaks, and is a safer way to move oil than truck and trains, es­pe­cially af­ter a hand­ful of fiery — and some­times deadly — de­rail­ments of trains car­ry­ing North Dakota crude.

But the Stand­ing Rock Sioux, other tribes and en­vi­ron­men­tal groups say that the pipe­line could threaten wa­ter sup­plies for millions, since it will cross the Mis­souri River, as well as harm sa­cred sites and ar­ti­facts. Protesters, some­times num­ber­ing in the thou­sands, have gath­ered since April at the con­flu­ence of the Can­non­ball and Mis­souri rivers in south­ern North Dakota.

In the court­room

The Stand­ing Rock Sioux, whose reser­va­tion strad­dles the North Dakota-South Dakota border, are su­ing fed­eral reg­u­la­tors for ap­prov­ing the oil pipe­line. They have chal­lenged the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers’ de­ci­sion to grant per­mits at more than 200 wa­ter cross­ings and ar­gue that the pipe­line would be placed less than a mile up­stream of the reser­va­tion, po­ten­tially af­fect­ing drink­ing wa­ter for more than 8,000 tribal mem­bers and millions down­stream.

The tribe hasn’t fared well in court so far. A fed­eral judge in Septem­ber de­nied their re­quest to block con­struc­tion of the en­tire pipe­line. Three fed­eral agen­cies stepped in and or­dered a tem­po­rary halt to con­struc­tion on corps land around and un­der­neath Lake Oahe — one of six reser­voirs on the Mis­souri River.

The corps is re­view­ing its per­mit­ting of the project and has given no timetable for a de­ci­sion. Mean­while, the tribe’s ap­peal is still pend­ing in fed­eral court.

En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners has said con­struc­tion is nearly com­plete elsewhere.

The protests

The tribe’s fight grew into an in­ter­na­tional cause in re­cent months for many Na­tive Amer­i­cans and in­dige­nous peo­ple from around the world, with some trav­el­ing thou­sands of miles to join the protest.

“Di­ver­gent” ac­tress Shailene Wood­ley also protested and was ar­rested, while “Democ­racy Now!” host Amy Goodman had charges of ri­ot­ing and tres­pass­ing charges dropped stem­ming from her cov­er­age of a protest.

More than 260 peo­ple have been ar­rested since the larger demon­stra­tions be­gan in August.

As of Wed­nes­day, nearly all of the $6 mil­lion in emer­gency fund­ing ear­marked for law en­force­ment costs re­lated to the protest had been used up. The state’s Emer­gency Com­mis­sion ap­proved the money in late Septem­ber, and the Depart­ment of Emer­gency Ser­vices plans to ask for more.

Lat­est de­vel­op­ments

Nearly half of those ar­rests came over the week­end, when protesters twice blocked a state high­way and law en­force­ment said that a drone was flown dan­ger­ously close to a po­lice he­li­copter.

On Sun­day, a group of protesters moved onto a pri­vate prop­erty that had re­cently been ac­quired by En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners, putting them squarely in the pipe­line’s path for the first time.

Mor­ton County sher­iff’s of­fi­cials called it tres­pass­ing. They said they didn’t have the re­sources to im­me­di­ately re­move the de­mon­stra­tors. Six states have an­swered the depart­ment’s call for re­in­force­ments, and En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners called on the protesters to leave. On Wed­nes­day, officers of three law en­force­ment agen­cies for­mally asked the protesters to go, but they said no. Po­lice said they don’t want to forcibly re­move the de­mon­stra­tors but will do so if nec­es­sary.

Actor Mark Ruf­falo was de­liv­er­ing a pair of Nava­jo­made so­lar trail­ers Wed­nes­day to help power the en­camp­ments es­tab­lished to protest the pipe­line. The Rev. Jesse Jack­son also vis­ited the protests on Wed­nes­day.


Protesters of the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line en­camp­ment sits Wed­nes­day on pri­vate prop­erty near Can­non Ball, N.D., owned by the pipe­line de­vel­oper, Texas-based En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners. Both the lo­cal sher­iff and En­ergy Trans­fer Part­ners have said the protesters are tres­pass­ing and must leave.


Protesters against the con­struc­tion of the Dakota Ac­cess oil pipe­line burn sage amid the fog sur­round­ing the protest camp near Can­non Ball, N.D., on Wed­nes­day. Protesters be­lieve law en­force­ment officers could take quick ac­tion Wed­nes­day to re­move them from pri­vate land owned by the pipe­line com­pany.


Mor­ton County Sher­iff Kyle Kirch­meier, front, lis­tens to Brian Wes­ley Horinek, of Ok­la­homa, out­side the New Camp on Pipe­line Ease­ment in North Dakota on Wed­nes­day. Sher­iff Kirch­meier and Cass County Sher­iff Paul Laney were at the site where a hu­man bar­ri­cade stopped traf­fic on North Dakota High­way 1806. The prospect of a po­lice raid on an en­camp­ment protest­ing the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line faded as night fell Wed­nes­day, with law en­force­ment making no im­me­di­ate move af­ter protesters re­jected their re­quest to with­draw from pri­vate land. Ac­tivists fear the nearly 1,200-mile pipe­line could harm cul­tural sites and drink­ing wa­ter for the Stand­ing Rock Sioux tribe.

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