On Dec. 4 the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), dedicated to “investigating, developing and maintaining the nation’s water and related environmental resources” according to their website, denied the easement requested for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) following months of tense negotiations, protests, and litigation by both proponents and opponents of the project.
The DAPL is the controversial 1,172 mile pipeline stretching from North Dakota to Illinois and passing through South Dakota and Iowa. The project, manned by Dakota Access, LLC, has faced heavy criticism from activists for a slew of reasons — spanning environmental concerns, the legitimacy of eminent domain claims by a private corporation and Native land rights. It’s faced particularly heavy scrutiny for the Standing Rock Sioux’s complaint that it would disturb their own tribal affairs, following the pipeline’s move from the original site near Bismarck, which Rev. Jesse Jackson deemed “environmental racism.”
Protests blossomed on the site in the spring, with a Standing Rock Sioux elder’s camp beside the Missouri River becoming a touch point for thousands of protesters. This same camp has been the target of law enforcement efforts to suppress the protests, for fear that the demonstration may get out of hand or incite violence on the site. Numerous complaints of excessive force have erupted from Standing Rock protesters, whose supporters have been outraged by the reported use of tear gas, attack dogs and riot gear. In one such instance, a viral Youtube video confirmed the use of these animals by security workers, resulting in five protesters receiving injuries.
The USACE’s refusal to issue a permit for the pipeline’s construction was met with an outpouring of support and celebration by these same activists. “From the beginning, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has asked for a full environmental analysis to consider threats to the water, and also the social and cultural impacts. Peace, and prayer, and water protectors have led to the right outcome,” the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Brian Cladoosby said in a statement on their website.
But for those hoping to permanently stop the development of a pipeline in the area, it may be too soon to celebrate a win. “”We are asking our supporters to keep up the pressure, because while President Obama has granted us a victory today, that victory isn’t guaranteed in the next administration,” the lead organizer of the organization Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Dallas Goldtooth, told supporters in a statement.
President-elect Trump and President Barack Obama have yet to officially comment on the denial.