Standing Rock protesters claim victory as US Army Corps halts pipeline route

Standing strong.
Standing strong.
Image: Reuters/Stephanie Keith
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After a months-long protest by Native American groups and environmental activists, the US Army Corps of Engineers on Dec. 4 told Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault that the current route for the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota will be denied.

“Today the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline,” Archambault said in a statement. “Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternatives routes. We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.”

The news comes a week after the Army corps gave a deadline of Monday, Dec. 5, for demonstrators to leave the site and North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple issued an emergency evacuation order. The 1,172-mile oil pipeline, owned by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, was mostly complete except for the Lake Oahe stretch.

“I’m just thankful that there were some leaders in the federal government who realized that something is not right even though it’s legal,” Archambault told MSNBC. “I would say that it’s over.”

Not everyone was pleased. “I hoped even a lawless president wouldn’t continue to ignore the rule of law,” North Dakota senator Kevin Cramer said in a statement. “However, it was becoming increasingly clear he was punting this issue down the road. Today’s unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country.”

Native American groups, environmental activists, and, most recently, US veterans have been protesting since this summer to block the pipeline’s construction. Opponents of the pipeline say it crosses sites sacred to the Sioux and poses a risk to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water supply. An earlier route that would have taken the pipeline through Bismarck was scrapped over complications, among which was concern about its proximity to well water.