After a prodding from President Donald Trump late last month, the US Army Corps has granted permission for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under the Missouri River, which shall also pave the way for the construction of the final 1.5 miles to complete the 1,200-mile pipeline.
The portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline shall pass under the Missouri River situated north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, reports NPR.
The granting of permission also made the US Army cut short its environmental impact assessment and the public comment period associated with it.
On January 18, a notice was published in the Federal Register saying that the Army would accept public comments on the project through February 20.
However, on January 24, President Trump signed a memorandum encouraging the US Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the review and approval process, and the Army said that it had been directed to expedite its review of the route.
Consistent with the President’s directive
In a letter to Congress announcing the decision, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Army Paul Cramer cited the President’s memorandum, saying that consistent with the direction in the memo, his agency would waive its policy to wait 14 days after Congressional notification before granting an easement.
Cramer explained that Army officially granted the easement on the afternoon of February 8, at which point the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, would be able to begin construction.
The letter noted that the nature of the project, which involves drilling a horizontal hole under a part of the Missouri River known as Lake Oahe for a 30-inch diameter pipe, does not require a separate construction license.
That gives opponents of the pipeline very little time to pursue legal action, as the Standing Rock Sioux promised to do after the President’s memorandum was signed.
In a statement on January 31, the tribe said it would vigorously pursue legal action to ensure the environmental impact statement order issued late last year is followed so the pipeline process is legal, fair and accurate.
A request by the tribe to halt the project was not granted by a US district judge.
Will fight the Army’s decision
The director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, which has helped organize demonstrations against the pipeline since last summer, released a statement promising to fight the Army’s decision.
The granting of an easement, without any environmental review or tribal consultation, is not the end of the fight, it is the new beginning, according to the tribe official statement.
On the morning of February 7, a post to the Facebook page for the Oceti Sakowin encampment south of the pipeline route told supporters of the protesters to submit public comments to the Army’s environmental assessment page.
After the Army’s decision was announced, a post on the Facebook page for the nearby Sacred Stone Camp said that it is going to be their last stand.
Early this month, more than 70 people were arrested near the pipeline’s route, when the Morton County Sheriff’s office moved people off what it said was privately owned land.
Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, announced the decision to Congress, saying he was ready to offer the pipeline’s owner a 30-year easement on a disputed patch of land.
The move drew outrage from opponents, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation in North Dakota sits less than a mile from the proposed pipeline route.
And it drew cheers from supporters, who said the planning process for the completion of the $3.7 billion project had already lasted too long, details the New York Times.
The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, Dave Archambault II, responded to the decision by vowing to fight it in court.