the Sioux get an unexpected victory over the Dakota Access pipeline

A member of the Security Council of the Sioux Reservation at Standing Rock, North Dakota, in September 2016.
A member of the Security Council of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, North Dakota, in September 2016. ANDREW CULLEN / REUTERS

The decision went unnoticed, given the health situation in the United States, but among Indian tribes and environmental organizations, it was celebrated as an unexpected victory.

Almost three years after the Dakota Access pipeline came into service, on the ancestral territory of the Sioux, in North Dakota, a federal judge, on Wednesday, March 25, questioned the operating authorization given to Energy Transfer Partners, pending an examination of the impact of the pipeline on the environment.

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District of Columbia federal judge James Boasberg has not suspended activity and oil continues to flow at a rate of 570,000 barrels per day, despite opposition from tribes who fear contamination of Missouri water, the river that runs along the Lakota reserve. But he left the door open to this possibility, believing that the Corps of Engineers of Public Works of the army had approved the project without answering in depth on the issue of potential crude oil leaks, nor dispelling doubts about the system's capacity detection to identify low flow flows. A decision "Highly controversial", he estimated.

International opposition

The magistrate ordered an environmental review of the route and gave the parties a month to convince him to suspend – or not – the flow pending the result.

The pipeline runs 1,800 km from North Dakota to Illinois. The section dug under the Missouri had aroused international opposition which had culminated in the occupation of Standing Rock, which had become the symbol of the Amerindians' struggle to defend their lands coveted by the hydrocarbon companies. #NoDAPL had become the rallying cry of young people "Water protectors" (water protectors) from around the world.

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Between August 2016 and February 2017, thousands of activists – and members of 300 indigenous tribes – had camped at the confluence of the Missouri and the Cannon Ball River in an attempt to oppose the construction of the pipeline. They had been fired from tear gas, water cannon jets in polar temperatures and clashed with the dogs of vigilantes from private security companies.

The fight continues in the courts

They thought they had won when President Barack Obama suspended the project in late 2016. But upon his inauguration, his successor in the White House Donald Trump had ordered the corps of engineers to speed up the authorization process.

Standing Rock President Mike Faith said "Honored" to see the perseverance of the tribe finally rewarded, four years later. Lawyer for Earthjustice, the association that defends the tribe in court, Jan Hasselman, said the fight would continue in court "Until the pipeline is closed".

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The hearing was held by videoconference due to the containment measures due to the Covid-19 epidemic in the federal capital and half the country, tribes included.

See as well The Battle of the Standing Rock Sioux against the "Black Snake"


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