Army Corps of Engineers clears way for Dakota Access Pipeline

February 7, 2017, 5:35 p.m.
Native American riders listen at an interfaith ceremony on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The final obstacle holding back the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline has been swept away.

The Army Corps of Engineers says it will grant the final permit in the form of a 30-year easement under the Lake Oahe section of the Missouri River, according to court filings released on Tuesday and reported on by The Washington Post and other outlets. That watershed — and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's rally behind it — was what grabbed the attention of many Americans, even though the pipeline goes through four states.

The Army Corp will give Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, all it needs to complete the 1.5-mile section, the last segment of a 1,700-mile pipeline that ends near Patoka, Illinois.

The move negates previous plans for a complete environmental assessment of land and water and cuts short the public comment period. The company says it's prepared to start drilling under the lake as soon as it gets final approval.

Executive order set permit in motion

President Donald Trump signed executive orders on Jan. 24 allowing both the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines to move forward. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and other groups have been protesting the Dakota project since the spring of 2016.

Demonstrators say the $3.7-billion Dakota Access Pipeline — which is slated to carry 470,000 barrels of oil daily — threatens to disturb sacred lands and contaminate the river's water supply. The unfinished section of the pipeline runs under Lake Oahe, less than half a mile from Standing Rock.

According to Reuters, Trump told reporters that "we are going to renegotiate some of the terms" of the Keystone XL project. "And if they like we will see if we can get that pipeline built — a lot of jobs, 28,000 jobs, great construction jobs."

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe said it would take legal action against Trump's order, but it's unclear if the new permit allows time for such action.

The executive order on the pipeline "not only violates the law, but it violates tribal treaties," David Archambault II, the Standing Rock tribal chairman, said in a statement at the time. "Nothing will deter us from our fight for clean water. We will be taking legal action, and take this fight head on."

Things have changed since December

On Dec. 4, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not allow sections of the Dakota pipeline to be drilled under the Missouri River near tribal lands. The Army says it would look for alternate routes for the pipeline.

Though many protesters celebrated that moment, others remained worried because Trump had said he supported finishing the pipeline to increase domestic energy production and because it "will put a lot of steelworkers back to work."

"We are very insistent that if we are going to build pipelines in the United States, the pipes should be built in the United States," he said.

The Keystone XL oil pipeline would bring tar sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf. Former President Barack Obama rejected the pipeline, saying it would contribute to climate change because of the type of oil involved, reports the Washington Post.

This story was originally written in January of this year and has been updated with more recent information.