A Big Win For The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe In Pipeline Dispute

Dec 5, 2016
Originally published on December 6, 2016 4:49 pm
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The big news coming out of North Dakota and it's about the future of a controversial oil pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers announced yesterday it will not approve a building permit for the key and final section of the Dakoda Access pipeline.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And this news is being welcomed, as you could expect. It's a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of their supporters. For its part, Energy Transfer Partners - this is the company that is building the pipeline - they call the move, quote, "an overt and transparent political action by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law." This $3.8 billion project is designed to transport half-a-million gallons of oil per day. And let's bring in NPR's Nathan Rott, who joins us from the site where protesters have been camped out for a long time now. Nate (ph), good morning.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So what does this decision mean for this pipeline exactly?

ROTT: So what the Army Corps did was say that it would not approve an easement for that key part of the pipeline where it crosses the Missouri River. It's actually not far from where I am now. Instead, the Army Corps said it would look at alternate routes for the pipeline and would conduct a full environmental impact statement on their findings.

So what that means in the immediate sense is that the Dakota Access pipeline is not going to be completed anytime soon. That's not to say it won't be completed. The Army Corps could very well determine that this is actually the best place for the pipeline to go. The Trump administration could act to speed things up. And I think it's important to bear in mind that this pipeline that we're talking about is more than 90 percent complete. Billions of dollars of construction have been spent on it. So it's really unlikely that Energy Transfer Partners, the company building it, is going to just reroute this thing without a fight.

GREENE: Very important point you made there. I mean, we are going to have a different president very soon. I mean, this is a decision from President Obama, who is leaving office. Donald Trump coming in could make a very different decision, this fight could go on. So how are people reacting right now?

ROTT: This was - this has grown to be a movement about sovereignty and consultation as much as it is about a pipeline and environmental issues. There's more than 100 Native American tribes that are represented here at this camp that I'm at to protest the construction. And for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, who had been at the heart of this protest to protect their water, it's really big. Let's hear from their tribe's chairman, David Archambault.

DAVID ARCHAMBAULT II: An environmental impact statement is a big statement that says we're no longer going to ignore the original people of this country.

ROTT: Now on the other side of all this is the energy and infrastructure industries and a number of Republican lawmakers. The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now didn't mince its words in a statement, saying, the decision was a rejection of the entire regulatory and judicial systems. North Dakota's governor called it a serious mistake. And here's the state's representative, Kevin Cramer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KEVIN CRAMER: Today's unfortunate decision sends a chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country.

GREENE: OK. Cramer there, a Republican congressman from North Dakota who's been in favor of this pipeline. God, it sounds like people on both sides really making this much more than just about a pipeline. Nate, what about this camp? I mean, we've seen so many images and heard so many voices from this camp that has grown around this pipeline site.

ROTT: I was honestly a little surprised that people weren't as excited as I thought they might be. Most of the people I talked to have been pretty reserved. They felt like the announcement was great, but they know that this by no means is a knockout punch. The upcoming Trump administration is on everybody's minds here. He has said that he supports the pipeline and his federal disclosure forms actually show that the president-elect owned stock in the companies building the pipeline as of May. So that's having a sobering effect.

GREENE: All right, Nathan Rott from the protest site north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Nate, thanks a lot.

ROTT: Yeah, thank you. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We incorrectly say the pipeline is designed to transport half a million gallons of oil per day. It is actually 470,000 barrels per day.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.