An ongoing protest by Native American members of the Standing Rock tribe, intended to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, got a little celebrity "love" today in Washington D.C. as Bernie supporter, Susan Sarandon, and friends decided to swing by to show their support. In July, the environmental group Earthjustice filed a lawsuit (included in its entirety at the end of this post) on behalf of the Standing Rock tribe, seeking an injunction against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which authorized the pipeline's construction. Judge James E. Boarsberg heard arguments in the case today but did not offer a ruling instead saying he would issue his opinion by September 9th with an appeal hearing set for September 14th.
For those that haven't followed the situation, the Dakota Access Pipeline is an 1,100 mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline intended to connect oil producers in the Bakken area of North Dakota to refining capacity and other transportation infrastructure in Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline will initially carry 470,000 barrels of oil per day with capacity as high as 570,000 barrels (roughly 50% of daily Bakken production). The pipeline is expected to cost $3.8 billion and was expected to be completed by the end of 2016 until recent protests halted construction.
Although the pipeline primarily runs along private land, federal approval was required for crossings at various bodies of water, like the Missouri River. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Standing Rock tribe, alleges that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct the proper "cultural" reviews before approving construction. The complaint further alleges that running the pipeline upstream of tribal land threatens the water supply of the tribe. According to RT:
The tribes' lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Washington challenges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant permits at more than 200 water crossings in four states for the pipeline. The tribe argues the pipeline that would be placed less than a mile upstream of the reservation could impact drinking water for the more than 8,000 tribal members and the millions who rely on it further downstream. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the tribe by environmental group Earthjustice, said the project violates several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act. The tribe worries the project will disturb ancient sacred sites outside of the 2.3-million acre reservation.
Meanwhile, per the New York Times, the Army Corps of Engineers rejected claims made by the Standing Rock tribe saying it consulted extensively with tribes, including the Standing Rock Sioux, and that the tribe failed to describe specific cultural sites that would be damaged by the pipeline.
The battle culminated today in a hearing at the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. with well organized protests drawing some celebrity attention.
— Alexey Yaroshevsky (@Yaro_RT) August 24, 2016
Members of the Standing Rock tribe have been protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline now for months in North Dakota. Protesters have setup a camp along the Missouri River on land belonging to the US Army Corps of Engineers, despite not having the proper permits to do so. The number of people at the camp has steadily grown over the past several weeks and have been estimated to be as high as 5,000 at various points in time.
Protests at the site have grown more contentious in recent days with protesters trespassing on private land to halt construction operations and taking to horseback to taunt police officers. "Safety" concerns at the site forced the Morton County Sheriff's department to halt construction last week as some protesters were found to be carrying "pipe bombs and guns." According to NPR:
"Construction at the site is now halted. Law enforcement said some are carrying pipe bombs and guns. Twenty-eight protesters were arrested over the last week, including Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault. He's urging protesters to comply with the law.
When Sheriff Kirschmeier was speaking about "safety concerns" Thursday, he said, "There have been some instances where things have become unlawful. ... Things have been taken a little bit further every day."
The escalation of the protests prompted police to remove water tanks and trailers that had been supplied by the North Dakota Department of Health as Homeland Secuity Division Director, Greg Wilz, told the Birmarck Tribune that “based on the scenario down there, we don’t believe that equipment is secure.”
With environmental interests recruiting celebrities to help draw attention to the cause we're pretty sure we'll be hearing more about the Dakota Access Pipeline over the coming weeks.