Cries of victory echoed from Standing Rock North Dakota as protestors celebrated news of a planned rerouting of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineering announced recently that it would not allow the pipeline to follow the current planned route and will look for alternatives.
For the past few months, Standing Rock has been the center of heated, sometimes violent conflict over the final segment of the 3.7 billion dollar oil pipeline that spans from North Dakota to Illinois.
On one side are the Sioux Indians and environmental activists in a sprawling a prairie camp of tents, teepees, and yurts to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline’s route. They claim that the project goes against an 1851 treaty that designated Native American land and are worried that it will destroy ancient burial sites, prayer sites, and culturally-significant artifacts.
They are concerned that the segment under the Missouri River could contaminate thousands of miles of freshwater. Many believe that the project perpetuates the nation’s reliance on nonrenewable resources and hinders progressive energy sourcing.
As Bronson Koenig, a basketball player at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and activist put it, “clean water is a precious resource. It belongs to all of us, whatever our heritage. We must all protect it.” Koenig, originally from La Crosse, is Native American and has written extensively about his travels to the protest sites.
On the other side are Energy Transfer Partners and politicians advocating for the direct passage of the pipeline. They believe that pipelines are the safest means of crude oil transport and are confident that it does not pose any environmental hazard. Additionally, they think that it is important to shift public policy toward local supplies of oil and reduce America's reliance on energy imports from more unstable regions of the world.
Some pipeline proponents believe that the protests surrounding this pipeline project have no legal basis and will set a precedent for future limitations on infrastructure.
According to Craig Stevens, spokesperson for the MAIN Coalition, a pro-infrastructure organization, “[the rerouting of the pipeline is] a purely political decision that flies in the face of common sense and the rule of law.”
These project’s supporters are hopeful that the Army Corps’ decision will not become the final ruling on the situation. President-elect Donald Trump is a known supporter of the pipeline and his administration could have the ultimate ruling in this case. While Mr. Trump owns stock in the energy company building the pipepline, the President-elect claims his personal opinions are independent of looming policy decisions.
In a statement Mr. Stevens said, “With President-elect Donald Trump set to take office [soon], we are hopeful that this is not the final word on the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
Still, protestors are rejoicing in their victory for now. Music and celebration have been marking the end of a long and brutal fight. From protesting in subzero temperatures to facing injuries and hypothermia from clashes with law enforcement, protestors have endured many perils. They are relieved to return home to their families before the harsh North Dakota winter.
“Mni wiconi,”they call, “Water is life.”
[Sources: The New York Times; The Player's Tribune; CNN.com]