Pipeline protesters take on Trump on ground, in court

Lisa Neff, Staff writer

President Donald Trump can bank on an all-out fight over the Dakota Access pipeline.

Shortly after his inauguration, Trump put the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines on the fast track to approval, despite environmental concerns and widespread opposition to the projects.

The president claimed he had not received “a single phone call” opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

“Maybe he should turn the White House phones back on, because millions of people have raised their voices against this dangerous project,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and a leader in the DAPL protest movement.

Thousands have made their voices heard in the protest camps in North Dakota.

Tens of thousands have made their voices heard in demonstrations urging at least 17 banks to revoke financing for the DAPL project.

And then there’s the opponents making their voices heard in courtrooms, as numerous lawsuits have been filed this winter.

In December 2016, the Obama administration ordered an environmental review of the pipeline.

The review was incomplete when Trump — who was known to have financial ties to the project before his election — signed a presidential memorandum instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to remove barriers to construction.

On Feb. 8, the corps granted a final easement allowing the pipeline to be constructed under the Missouri River half a mile upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. In doing so, the corps reversed its earlier decision to withhold the easement pending an assessment of alternate pipeline routes and the tribal treaty rights.

Energy Transfer Partners of Texas quickly went to work building the final stretch of the 1,200-mile pipeline, drilling under Lake Oahe, a water source for the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribes.

Earlier this month, a federal judge refused to issue an emergency injunction and halt construction because, he said, the pipeline presently poses no imminent harm to the tribes. Harm, he said, wouldn’t come until “the spigots are turned on and the oil flows.”

The judge set another hearing for Feb. 27, after WiG press time.

‘Arbitrary and capricious’

Meanwhile, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, with the support of the Earthjustice legal group, has asked a federal court to revoke the corps’ permits.

The tribe’s claim argues the corps ignored Standing Rock’s treaty rights and the result will be the destruction of culturally significant and sacred sites.

“In this arbitrary and capricious reversal of course, the Trump administration is circumventing the law — wholly disregarding the treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux and ignoring the legally required environmental review,” said Jan Hasselman, the Earthjustice attorney representing the tribe in its challenges against the pipeline. “It isn’t the 1800s anymore. The U.S. government must keep its promises to the Standing Rock Sioux and reject rather than embrace dangerous projects that undercut treaties.”

The tribe wants the court to move quickly on the case, because the pipeline could be completed and operational in a month.

Pipeline opponents also continue to pressure banks to withdraw support for the project or face boycotts.

The Indigenous Environmental Network reported that in just the few weeks after Trump took office, thousands of accounts were closed in protest, resulting in the removal of an estimated $55 million from 17 banks, including Citigroup, SunTrust, TD Bank and Wells Fargo.

“If money rules the day, then we will bring compassion to our capital by divesting,” said Chase Iron Eyes, lead attorney for the Lakota People’s Law Project.