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Dakota Access defies easement delay and vows to finish pipeline

Filed Under: Business | Environment | Law | National | Politics
More on: consultation, dakota access pipeline, dave archambault, dc, doi, kelcy warren, ladonna brave bull allard, north dakota, standing rock sioux, tara houska, usace, white house
     
   

The #NoDAPL movement continues in North Dakota. Photo by Ada Media Med Mera

Breaking weeks of silence, the wealthy backers of the Dakota Access Pipeline are returning to court to force the completion of their costly and controversial project.

A day after the Obama administration said it would not grant a crucial easement for the pipeline, Dakota Access filed a cross-claim against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The firm asserted a right to finish the $4.8 billion project even without that final document.

"The Corps takes the position that Dakota Access will not have the right-of-way to cross beneath that land until the Corps gives it a document bearing the title of 'easement,'" attorneys for the pipeline partnership wrote on Tuesday.

"Dakota Access contends, instead, that the Corps has already made all of the relevant determinations and given Dakota Access its right-of-way; as a result, this additional documentation (a written easement) is not needed for Dakota Access to cross beneath that land," the filing continued.

The assertion flies in the face of a joint statement issued by the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior on Monday. The two agencies said the easement would remain on hold pending further consultation with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The delay drew a hopeful reaction from Chairman Dave Archambault II, although he acknowledged it wasn't "100 percent" what the tribe has been seeking. A denial of the easement and a full environmental review of the pipeline have been the rallying calls of the #NoDAPL movement.

“We call on all water protectors, as we have from the beginning, to join our voices in prayer and to share our opposition to this pipeline peacefully," Archambault said in a statement. "The whole world is watching and where they see prayerful, peaceful resistance, they join us."

But activists on the ground were far more defiant. They have faced pepper spray, attack dogs, arrests and other violent crackdowns in their efforts to protect sacred sites, burial grounds and water resources in North Dakota.

"We do not negotiate. We cannot negotiate the safety of the water, and we will not negotiate," said LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the founder and spokesperson of the Sacred Stone Camp, which was the first #NoDAPL resistance camp. "We will stand, and continue to stand until every pipe is out of the ground. As our leaders come together, they need to understand that the people's voice comes first."

The filing by Dakota Access hardly comes as a surprise, as the firm has rushed to complete work despite opposition from Indian Country. Even before Monday's announcement about the easement, crews were already mobilizing equipment in order to drill under Lake Oahe at the Missouri River.

"Dakota Access Pipeline has waited long enough to complete this pipeline. Dakota Access Pipeline has been granted every permit, approval, certificate, and right-of-way needed for the pipeline’s construction. It is time for the courts to end this political interference and remove whatever legal cloud that may exist over the right-of-way beneath federal land at Lake Oahe," Kelcy Warren, the wealthy CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of the project, said in a press release.

The return to court also comes as the #NoDAPL movement hosts a series of demonstrations at Army Corps offices across the nation on Tuesday. The Day of Action urges the agency to reject the easement and conduct a full environmental review of the nearly-finished pipeline.

"For 100 years, the United States Army and Native people have been at odds," attorney Tara Houska, a citizen of the Couchiching First Nation who serves as the national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, said in a call to action. "It's time that we step forward and begin a new chapter together, one in which indigenous rights are respected, our lands are respected and our waters are respected by the U.S. government."

The Day of Action include a sit-in and demonstration at the main Army Corps headquarters in D.C., located just a few blocks from the federal courthouse, on Tuesday afternoon. Activists also plan to march to the White House.

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