Tensions flare in fight against Dakota Access Pipeline



On Sunday a federal appeals court on Sunday affirmed the lower court ruling which rejected  the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s motion to halt the Dakota Access pipeline on the basis that they had not been adequately consulted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the construction began.

The Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners resumed digging trenches and laying down pipe on Tuesday, arguing that the ruling allowed the company to continue building in an area within 20 miles to the east and west of the Missouri River.

However, a statement from the Justice Department, Interior Department and the Corps of Engineers requested that Energy Transfer Partners pause construction, saying it was too early to allow work to continue on lands bordering and under Lake Oahe, a reservoir managed by the Corps or Engineers and the main water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Clashes between police and protesters intensified after Sunday’s ruling, resulting in 23 arrests and charges of engaging in a riot and criminal trespassing on Monday alone. Two people chained themselves to construction equipment Tuesday morning in an attempt to disrupt construction, according to the Morton County Sheriff.

Actress Shailene Woodley, star of Divergent, was included in the arrests and is an outspoken advocate against the pipeline.

The controversy surrounding the pipeline has drawn the largest gathering of Native Americans in 100 years to the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, where they have set up camp just miles from the pipeline.

Along with the outbreak on Tuesday, the protest has become heated on many other occasions.

In July, protesters residing in the camp said security hired by the energy company confronted them with pepper spray and dogs that bit some of them, including a child.

The company and the sheriff’s department denied these claims, saying protesters had knives and hatchets and injured the private security and dogs.

Nearly 95 arrests have been since the protest began in July, including David Archambault II, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman.

Sunday’s ruling was a crucial moment in the prolonged conflict, which began when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued to block the pipeline on the grounds that they were not meaningfully consulted before construction began and that the pipeline disrupted culturally sacred sites and presented a danger to the reservation’s water supply.

While the lower court denied this appeal, in an unprecedented manner, the Department of Justice, Department of the Army and Department of the Interior intervened with a joint statement requesting that the pipeline company cease all construction activity on government land within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe until they re-evaluated their own decision-making surrounding the pipeline.

The pause stuck until Tuesday but only on the small segment near the reservation.

The rest of the 1,172-mile pipeline, stretching from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to tank farms in Patoka, Ill., is nearly complete according to the Associated Press.

If completed, the pipeline will transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day with a capacity as high as 570,000 barrels per day or more, which accounts for roughly half of current daily crude oil production in the Bakken, according to Energy Transfer Partners.

Supporters of the pipeline claim the pipeline would decrease transportation time between the oil wells and markets and would reduce traffic of oil trains and trucks, ultimately making rails and roads safer.

While Energy Transfers says the pipeline is made safe by including leak detection equipment and remote-close block valves if a detection were to occur, the tribe disagrees, saying the pipeline, which crosses more than 200 bodies of water, is a threat to water reservoirs in the Midwest.

In the presidential election sphere, the dispute has garnered little attention from Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Though both Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein empathized with the protester’s cause and advocated for an immediate halt to the construction of the pipeline, the Clinton campaign still has yet to aligned with either side, raising eyebrows among the protesters.

On the other hand, the Trump campaign is alleged to have economic ties to the pipeline through Trump’s energy adviser, Harold Hamm.

Hamm, the founder and chair of Continental Resources, a fracking company in the Bakken Shale, announced in September that the that oil obtained in the Bakken by the company will be transported through the pipeline in order to get oil on the market faster and to reduce the cost of transportation.

Jacob Knutson is a sophomore  journalism, English and political science major from Rapid City, S.D.

Blog at WordPress.com.

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