The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has told the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that the main encampment used by those protesting the Dakota Access pipeline will be closed by December 5, according to CBC Canada and other news reports.
Anyone who remains at the Oceti Sakowin camp after that date is subject to criminal trespassing charges, according to Col. John Henderson, the Omaha district commander.
The Black Friday announcement followed NY Times editorial board criticism on Wednesday:
… on Sunday in North Dakota … law enforcement officers escalated their tactics against unarmed American Indians and allies who have waged months of protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. They drenched protesters with water cannons on a frigid night, with temperatures in the 20s.
It is that violence – perpetuated by contractors earlier this year and a militarized law enforcement operation this week – that is being used to justify closing down the camp. Thousands have been protesting the pipeline since spring, supporting the largest gathering of Native Americans in 100 years.
According to The Guardian:
The order was “to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protestors and law enforcement officials that have occurred in this area, and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury” from the winter weather.
Also on Wednesday, the NY Times published an interactive showing that the pipeline crosses Sioux land promised to the tribe in the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, a promise that the U.S. government would ignore.
Irony alert: on October 31, President Obama declared November as National Native American Heritage Month.
Earlier in the week, ABC news broadcast drone video showing police dousing peaceful protesters with water – described by one side as water cannons and the other as firehoses.
The Army Corps of Engineers is also employing a tactic popularized by the Bush Administration and expanded by Obama – “free speech zones.”
The move also comes after U.S. veterans announced that they would be converging on North Dakota on December 4 in support of the water protectors.
Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, told the Bismarck Tribune that 5,000-7,000 people are in the camp.
Goldtooth said there’s not enough land on the south side of the river where many are already camping; and a planned winter camp on 50 acres of reservation land near Cannon Ball is not yet ready, with groundbreaking set for next week. “There’s no other space that can take people right now. This is a stupid, foolish act by the corps. I’m fairly sure that law enforcement would be just as concerned,” Goldtooth said.
Daniel Berrigan, the poet and priest who died in April, and whose actions throughout his life pushed the limits of civil disobedience, posed the issue in language that closely echoed that of Thoreau and bears relevance today: “Someone, as a strict requirement of sanity and logic, must be willing to say a simple thing: ‘The machine is working badly.’ And if the law of the machine, a law of military and economic profit, enacted by generals and tycoons, must be broken in favor of the needs of man, let the law be broken. Let the machine be turned around, taken apart, built over again.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline Project (DAPL) is a $3.78 billion conduit being built from the oil-rich Bakken fields in North Dakota, near the Canadian border, through South Dakota and Iowa, to Patoka, Illinois… The Army Corps of Engineers approved the project in July with a “fast-track” option, allowing it to run under the Missouri river… The parent company of Dakota Access LLC is Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, whose board of directors includes Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas and whose investors include President-Elect, Donald Trump.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 requires that an Environmental Impact Statement before exceptionally large projects can begin.
However, in 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ignored the NEPA, employing questionable practices in fast-tracking the approval process for the pipeline.
The pipeline was originally slated to pass through Bismarck, N.D., the state’s second largest city. Bismark citizens successfully protested the route because of its proximity to their water supply.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue permits before projects can be constructed through our waterways. The intent was to trigger a public and transparent permitting process as well as an environmental impact statement (required by the National Environmental Policy Act) and an impact analysis (CWA). In addition, the Corps is supposed to consult with tribes per the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).
Critics charge that the Corps avoids the intent of the law via Nationwide Permit (NWP) 12, “a fast-tracking process designed to exempt minor projects with up to a half-acre of impacts to waterways from any public notice or review processes (pdf).”
Since 2012, the Corps has begun to approve massive interstate oil pipelines under NWP 12, artificially treating them as thousands of “single and complete projects,” allowing them to bypass any meaningful environmental review or public engagement.
On June 1 the Corps issued its Federal Register call for comments on the 1,168-mile Dakota Access Pipeline. The Corps the approved construction in July by claiming NWP 12 fast-track authority. A coalition of environmental groups submitted comments in opposition (pdf).
In midsummer, the Obama administration promised that henceforth there would be a climate test for new projects before they could be approved. That promise was codified in the Democratic platform approved by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which says there will be no federal approval for any project that “significantly exacerbates” global warming.
North Dakota Pipeline Timeline
December 2014: Energy Transfer Partners LP files intent to build a 1,172-mile, 570,000 barrel-per-day pipeline delivering crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to Patoka, Illinois, crossing South Dakota and Iowa. This kicked off a year of public hearings in the N.D.
January 2016: N.D. regulators unanimously approve the pipeline
March 11: “Crossings of the Missouri River have the potential to affect the primary source of drinking water for much of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Tribal nations” ( EPA public comments). The EPA recommended that the Corps undertake a new draft environmental assessment.
March 29: “We believe the Corps did not adequately justify or otherwise support its conclusion that there would be no significant impacts upon the surrounding environment and community” (Department of the Interior public comments). Interior recommended that the Corps undertake government-to-government consultation with the Sioux.
April 29: The Corps held a hearing for Native Americans. According to local media reports, opposition was almost unanimous.
May 19: “Based on the inadequacies of the tribal consultation and the limited scope for identification of historic properties that may be affected, the ACHP questions the sufficiency of the Corps’ identification effort, its determinations of eligibility, and assessments of effect” (Advisory Council on Historic Preservation public comments).
July 26: The Corps of Engineers approved three easements (a process that allows someone to access to someone else’s property) that allowed the pipeline to cross waterways at Sakakawea, the Mississippi River, and Lake Oahe. Lake Oahe, approximately half a mile upstream of the tribe’s reservation, is an ancestral site for the Standing Rock Sioux. The Corps approved 200 water crossings.
July 27: The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the Corps, citing violation of multiple federal statutes. The tribe also alleged the pipeline threatens sites of historic, religious and cultural significance. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation had expressed those concerns in public comment on the draft environmental assessment.
September 3: Energy Transfer Partners hired private security guards who used attack dogs and mace on the water protectors.
September 8: Amy Goodman, a journalist with Democracy Now who had been covering the protests, learned that Morton County, North Dakota law enforcement had issued a warrant for her arrest. McLean County State Attorney Ladd Erickson claimed that Goodman was a protestor, not a journalist. As The Nation noted:
According to Erickson, a woman who appeared at a protest carrying a microphone emblazoned with the name Democracy Now! and trailing a video crew; who can be heard in the resulting video report identifying herself to a security guard as a reporter; and who then broadcast the video on the daily news program she has hosted for 20 years is not actually a journalist.
September 9: U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected the Sioux request to block the project but ruled that no construction activity could take place between Highway 1806 and 20 miles to the east of Lake Oahe.
September 9: Less than an hour after Boasberg’s decision, the Justice Department, Interior Department, and Army ordered construction near Lake Oahe to stop pending Corps review of its decisions.
October 11: Activists in four states disrupted the flow of millions of gallons of oil running between Canada in the U.S.
October 17: A North Dakota judge rejected the charges against Goodman, which had been changed from criminal trespassing to rioting, both misdemeanors.
November 20: Law enforcement use water hoses, tear gas at Standing Rock. A young woman from New York was severely injured; witnesses place the blame at the hands of law enforcement which denies the charges. There are few media at Standing Rock to provide third party documentation.
- The Corps is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense. Leadership of the Army Corps of Engineers
- The Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the Corps operates under the civilian oversight of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works).
- The U.S. Army is headed by a civilian senior appointed civil servant, the Secretary of the Army.
- Bio, Eric Fanning, Secretary of the Army
- Bio, Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)
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