On Sunday night, it was announced that the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline will not be constructed along the planned route, which could have severely damaged the environment, including potentially disrupting access to water for Native Americans inhabiting the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North and South Dakota. It also would have impacted sacred Native American sites in the surrounding areas. People against the pipeline, calling themselves "water protectors," have been camped out at the site of the pipeline for months.
In an interview with NBC News, Dave Archambault II, the Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, said that he was “thankful that there were some leaders in the federal government who realized that something is not right even though it’s legal and heard, for the first time in history, American Indian issues.”
At this point, alternatives to the initial pipeline route will be explored by the Army Corps of Engineers. Though the future of the pipeline remains unclear, particularly with Donald Trump’s presidency rapidly approaching, the water protectors may now be more likely to leave the site to avoid the dangerous weather guaranteed by North Dakota’s winter. Two weeks ago, water protectors had been issued with a warning that they would be prosecuted if they remained after Monday, Dec. 5.
The Army Corps of Engineers, a government entity responsible for “building and maintaining America’s infrastructure” has a mission to “deliver vital public and military engineering services; partnering in peace and war to strengthen our Nation’s security, energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters.” Notably absent from this mission is the goal to improve environmental sustainability, as if it’s not at all a part of these concerns.
Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based company that initiated the construction of the pipeline, responded to the halting of the pipeline, calling it “a purely political action” by the Army Corps of Engineers. Right, because the environment and indigenous rights are totally"purely political" issues and have no effect whatsoever on the quality of people's lives. Sounds like someone needs a history lesson—a real one.
This win is definitely something to celebrate, but we can't get complacent because of it. “It’s hard to get excited, because it might mean nothing...Everybody knows that Trump has some investment into this pipeline, and he’s our next president, so my faith is a little low,” one water protector told NBC.
Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota added that “today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project [and] the pipeline still remains in limbo.” Heitkamp has done advocacy work for alternative energy, but, in an interview with CNBC, said, “I just think that this fight is not winnable.”