Army Corps ignores EIS commitments, President Trump has heard no complaints about pipelines
By C.S. Hagen
CANNON BALL – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the final easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline Wednesday afternoon, sparking fierce criticism from tribal leaders and opened the doors to intensifying condemnation from Peace Garden State political leaders against the Standing Rock Sioux.
“On February 8, 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted an easement to Dakota Access, LLC allowing the installation of a thirty-inch diameter light crude oil pipeline under federal lands managed by the Corps at Oahe Reservoir,” Capt. Ryan Hignight reported in the Army Corps’ press release.
“The granting of this easement follows the February 7 Secretary of the Army decision to terminate the Notice of Intent to Perform an Environmental Impact Statement and notification to Congress of the Army’s intent to grant an easement to Dakota Access for the Lake Oahe crossing.”
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II was on a flight to Washington D.C. when he first heard President Trump’s remarks about hearing ‘no complaints’ from anyone regarding the continuation of the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Facebook page. He learned that the easement had been issued after he landed.
Archambault responded to Trump by cancelling the meeting saying, “Trump’s complete disregard for Native Nations and our treaty rights is disrespectful.”
Monthly, more than 12 million people are engaged in online discussions pertaining to the Dakota Access Pipeline, more than 590,000 petition signatures and environmental impact study statements have been submitted, and more than 15,000 calls have been made to the White House and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to a tribal press release.
“And Trump says nobody spoke up.”
The news didn’t come as a surprise to the Standing Rock Sioux or to the tribe’s supporters, as the Department of the Army issued an intent to issue the easement a day earlier. Legal actions are already underway.
“We sent a letter directly to Trump, have filed a legal challenge and we stand with more than 360 Native Nations and millions of Americans who have voiced their opposition to the project,” Archambault said. “The media has widely reported the President’s brazen conflict of interest to the pipeline. His complete disregard for Native Nations and our treaty rights is disrespectful.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers advertised earlier this week that testimonies would be accepted pertaining to the environmental impact statement until February 20. Additional telephone calls and emails were placed to Hignight for comment, but the captain did not reply by press time.
“We have asked for a fair, balanced and lawful environmental impact statement directly to President Trump and through the courts,” Archambault said. “The Governor, North Dakota congressional delegation, and the entire world are keenly aware of the immense opposition to this project. We encourage our allies to exercise their First Amendment rights to remind President Trump where we stand on DAPL.
“Rise with Standing Rock.”
Unity within the activists gathered has come under question after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council ordered campers away. Questions also have risen pertaining to how the tribe has been spending funds donated to the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Some activists are determined to stay, but the long winter months have depleted the activist numbers on site to a few hundred, according to activist reports.
Former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell told The Washington Post that the Army Corps was “reneging” on its commitment to other federal agencies and tribal leaders.
“So the decision to not do any of that is reneging on a commitment they made [in December] and I think it’s fair to say that I’m profoundly disappointed with the Corps’ reversal of its decision to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement and consider alternative routes,” Jewell told The Washington Post. “This is a clear reversal of a commitment on the part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on something they gave thoughtful consideration to when they decided to do an environmental review.”
The Army Corps further stated in its press release that it will “ensure the portion of the pipeline that crosses Lake Oahe complies with the conditions of the easement.”
Additionally, the Army Corps is also working with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and local law enforcement to restore the area to its pre-protest state and dealing with trash and untreated waste.
“The safety of those located on Corps-managed land remains our top priority, in addition to preventing contaminants from entering the waterway,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District Commander, Col. John Henderson said.
Since August 2016, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier has stated repeatedly that his department and other police departments who assisted during Standing Rock’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, were concerned only with the rule of law, and not whether the pipeline was built or not.
“Today’s decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is a step toward the closure necessary for pipeline construction,” Kirchmeier said. “If protestors continue to take unlawful actions in response to the Corps’ decision, law enforcement will be forced to continue to put themselves in harm’s way to enforce the rule of law. Our hope is that the new administration in Washington will now provide North Dakota law enforcement the necessary resources to bring closure to the protests. ”
Morton County Commissioner Cody Schulz fired a shot at former President Obama before condemning activists without proof for at least one crime that hasn’t been proven they committed.
“The last administration in Washington decided against granting an easement to DAPL even through the career experts at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended approval and a federal court denied a request to stop it. And they refused to give North Dakota law enforcement the much needed resources to deal with professional protestors who have assaulted police officers, bullied residents, killed livestock, and angered the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for treating their land with disrespect.”
Schulz’s claim that activists slaughtered livestock refers to an incident late autumn when local bison and cattle were reported missing. State politicians, including Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. propagandized the incident, which was perpetuated by many, including the Chairman of the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council Russel Stabler
The case of missing livestock is still under investigation by the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association. No one has been charged with any crime related to missing livestock.
“Today’s decision from the Corps shows that this new administration will not politically meddle in a thorough review of a project that will have an enormous positive effect on the economy and public safety in our area,” Schulz said. “With professional protestors continuing to engage in criminal activities, we have new hope that we didn’t have before: an administration that will help law enforcement provide public safety for the citizens of Morton County instead of turning their backs on them.”
The conspiracy theory behind “paid protesters,” reported by Kirchmeier, Schulz, and other state politicians, stems from a news story published by the Fargo Forum and by Valley News Live on November 16, 2016. The story pertained to an anonymous Craigslist advertisement that offered to pay people cash to help shut down Fargo’s West Acres Mall. No actual protest was reported to have occurred. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department cited the Craigslist advertisement as a “vetted source.”
Since August 2016, the state has spent more than $25 million protecting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access, LLC’s interests in the 1,172-mile long pipeline, and Morton County has solicited assistance from nearly 1,300 officers from 25 North Dakota counties, 20 cities, and nine states. Nearly 700 arrests have been made.
As of January 25, 2017, more than 300 GoFundMe accounts raised a total of $8,061,614 for activists and the camps defending Standing Rock, according to Morton County officials. A total of 360 Native Nations from around the world have come together at Standing Rock since August 2016, a feat history has never seen before.
“Once again the federal government is putting oil industry profits ahead of the rights of Native American communities, clean water and combatting climate change,” Senator Bernie Sanders said on his Facebook page. “We must stop this pipeline, uphold our commitment to Native Americans and protect our planet for future generations.”