The Obama administration is now on the path to green-lighting the Dakota Access pipeline, something that could potentially ruin the president’s environmental legacy. The decision would let the pipeline be built across the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation in North Dakota, Politico reported.
The 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline was originally supposed to pass through Bismarck, N.D., but due to its possible impact on local water quality, a decision was made to reroute the pipeline upstream.
Protesters have already been camped out for months, arguing the project threatens their water supply and violates culturally sacred sites. Demonstrators and police have clashed multiple times, sometimes forcing the authorities to resort to the use of rubber bullets and pepper spray.
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The Department of Justice announced Thursday that it would announce the final steps to finish construction within a matter of days.
The escalating tension between the two groups has caused speculation that the Obama administration might postpone its decision to follow through with the pipeline’s construction.
In a statement released Friday, the company building the pipeline has repeatedly told the Army Corps that it would pause work at the disputed location for a “reasonable time period,” so long as they are guaranteed they be able to finish the project.
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“As a practical matter, pipeline construction in the state of North Dakota is complete except for the crossing beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahe,” Dakota Access LLC stated.
“We now wish to reiterate — publicly — that Dakota Access shares the safety concerns of the Corps and is prepared to suspend activities at the site if Dakota Access and the Corps can agree upon a date certain upon which we can complete construction” at the disputed site, the company added.
Even if the Obama administration does not follow through, it is suspected that President-elect Donald Trump will green-light it anyway. However, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, dismayed by the results of the recent election, has called for Obama to “set a lasting a true legacy” by halting construction.
“We must strengthen our resolve to protect the water, pray together for understanding, and pour our hearts and minds into the future of our children,” Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said. “In this time of uncertainty, President Obama still has the power to give our children hope. We believe halting the Dakota Access pipeline presents a unique opportunity for President Obama to set a lasting and true legacy and respect the sovereignty and treaty rights of Standing Rock and tribal nations across America.
“The only possible path forward for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is a decision that denies the easement or subjects it too a full environmental impact statement and tribal consultation.”
In 2014, Obama visited the Standing Rock reservation in an effort to improve relations between the federal government and Native American tribes. But critics are now saying the president is turning his back and abandoning them in their time of need.
“President Obama suggested a reroute, but that will affect other communities. The goal is for pipelines in general to be stopped,” said Eryn Wise, media liaison for the International Indigenous Youth Council, in an interview with the Observer at the Oceti Sakowin Camp. “The goal is for us to stop hurting the Earth in general. But also, I would like to see what we’ve started here, this beautiful movement with thousands of people starting to remember that indigenous people exist, that they continue to remember we are here, that we are coming back for our land, languages and culture, so no one will take them away from us again.”
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