Some good news this morning: President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers have denied the permit for constructing the proposed Dakota Pipeline through Standing Rock Sioux tribal lands, and at least for now, construction will be halted.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on Sunday it turned down a permit for a controversial pipeline project running through North Dakota, in a victory for Native Americans and climate activists who have protested against the project for several months.
A celebration erupted at the main protest camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others have been protesting the 1,172-mile (1,885-km) Dakota Access Pipeline for months.
It may prove to be a short-lived victory, however, because Republican President-elect Donald Trump has stated that he supports the project. Trump takes over from Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20 and policy experts believe he could reverse the decision if he wanted to.
The line, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP, had been complete except for a segment planned to run under Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a dam on the Missouri River.
That stretch required an easement from federal authorities. The Obama administration delayed a decision on the permit twice in an effort to consult further with the tribe.
"The Army will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record," a statement from the U.S. Army said.
Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army's Assistant Secretary for Civil Works, said in a statement the decision was based on a need to explore alternate routes for the pipeline, although it remains unclear what those alternatives will be.
Protesters have said the $3.8 billion project could contaminate the water supply and damage sacred tribal lands.
The tell that the Trump administration will almost certainly reverse this decision comes courtesy of North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, up for Interior Secretary.
“It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe,” said Heitkamp. “This administration’s delay in taking action -- after I’ve pushed the White House, Army Corps, and other federal agencies for months to make a decision -- means that today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project. The pipeline still remains in limbo. The incoming administration already stated its support for the project and the courts have already stated twice that it appeared the Corps followed the required process in considering the permit. For the next month and a half, nothing about this project will change. For the immediate future, the safety of residents, protesters, law enforcement, and workers remains my top priority as it should for everyone involved. As some of the protesters have become increasingly violent and unlawful, and as North Dakota’s winter has already arrived – with a blizzard raging last week through the area where protesters are located -- I’m hoping now that protesters will act responsibly to avoid endangering their health and safety, and move off of the Corps land north of the Cannonball River.
“Additionally, our federal delegation and governor have been working together in a bipartisan effort to push for more federal resources for law enforcement who have worked day and night through weekends and holidays to support the safety of our communities. The administration needs to provide those funds – whether the protesters remain or not.”
So yes, I fully expect Heitkamp not only to be named Interior Secretary, but as her first act, to roll that pipeline right on through the Standing Rock Sioux. The fight in Standing Rock is not over, and it was never up to President Obama. Voters saw to that last month.
We'll see where it goes from here, but I'm betting that a clash in North Dakota is only a few months away, and it will be a bloody, shocking affair when it happens.