I just returned from a Standing Rock/NoDAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) Teach-in at UC Davis, where we heard accounts from people just returning from the front lines. The war terminology fits. They described a veritable militarized zone, separating non-violent protesters (called water protectors, in view of their sovereign rights to the land) from the pipeline. Law enforcement, from various North Dakota counties and seven states, fully equipped with the latest in surplus US military gear, have created a gauntlet. They’ve dug a 20-foot deep trench fortified with razor wire to keep protesters out. Behind this, they stand in riot gear, armed with large canisters of pepper spray and bean bag guns.
Nights in the camp are hellish. The hills to the north are lit with flood lights as construction workers labor thru the night to lay the pipe as far as the drill pad. Constant aircraft and helicopters make sleep difficult. The Sioux and their allies blame the recent lack of dramatic video and photos on signal blocking, which is making recording and transmission difficult.
This sunset video from November 14 shows the construction lights dotting the hillside behind Oceti Sakowin Camp, the largest camp.
I’ve revised my map, below, to give an idea of the proximity between the pipeline, its military escort, and the camps which hold hundreds to thousands.
The latest news is this:
- The pipeline is almost entirely laid except for the section going under the Missouri River/Lake Oahe (see this post for more background information on the entire issue).
- Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline company, does not have the federal permit necessary to lay the pipe on federal Army Corp land under the river. This was revoked by President Obama on September 9 (minutes after a judge turned down an emergency injunction to stop construction).
- We were told it would take an oil spill six minutes to reach the water intake valves for the reservation. Shutting them off in time would be nearly impossible because: 1) most spills are not reported that quickly; and 2) the water system is old and not easily shut off.
- The Army Corp released a letter on November 14 saying they were reviewing the permit pending additional consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. This was widely reported as Obama blocking the pipeline, at least temporarily. That is not accurate. Obama already revoked the permit on September 9. (And he has no authority to re-route the pipeline or cancel the pipeline; he only has authority to withhold this one permit– absent a larger recognition of Treaty of 1851 lands, which is highly unlikely.) This recent letter simply explained what the Army Corp is doing. The letter did NOT say they were going to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (a really big permit requiring months of evaluation). Thus, as it stands now, even if Obama formally denies the Army Corp permit, President Trump could simply approve it on January 20. An EIS would lengthen the process beyond January and subject it to all kinds of legal review, thus offering some insulation from the coming regime. Thus, the one thing Obama can do before he leaves office is require an EIS. (Bernie Sanders has suggested that Obama can declare the federal Army Corp lands where the pipeline is a national monument, thus blocking the pipeline. This may be possible (I’m not sure), but it would be a rather radical move and highly unlikely.
- With declining production in the Bakken region, the pipeline will be largely unnecessary by the end of the year.
- Winter is coming. The forecast for Thursday is lows to 18 degrees with 24 mph winds. At the teach-in, we were advised that Sacred Stone Camp is flush with supplies, but the larger Oceti Sakowin Camp needs more winter gear– clothes, gloves, hats, boots, etc. To donate funds, they recommend using their PayPal account. A list of current supplies needed can be found here.
My new post explains why the Dakota Access Pipeline no longer makes economic sense:
Here are my previous posts on Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline, which focus more on the history and current status of the conflict on the ground: