Standing Rock protesters celebrate as pipeline is halted

December 5, 2016, 12:15 p.m.
fireworks fill the sky near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation as activists celebrate learning an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline has been denied
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Members of North Dakota's Standing Rock Sioux tribe are celebrating as the U.S Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not allow sections of an oil pipeline to be drilled under the Missouri River near tribal lands. The Army says it will look for alternate routes for the Dakota Access pipeline.

The news delivered on Dec. 4 set off a celebration inside the Oceti Sakowin camp, where thousands of protesters have gathered since the spring of 2016.

“It’s wonderful,” Dave Archambault II, the Standing Rock tribal chairman, told cheering supporters. “You all did that. Your presence has brought the attention of the world,” reported The New York Times.

Demonstrators have protested the $3.7-billion, 1,172-mile pipeline — which would have carried 470,000 barrels of oil daily — saying it threatened to disturb sacred lands and contaminate the river's water supply. Protests had grown particularly violent at times.

According to the Army's statement, the "consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis." That lengthy review process, according to the Times, could block the pipeline's construction for months or even years.

The decision means activists no longer have to stay at the camp, particularly as winter has set in. In fact, the Army ordered the camp be closed on Dec. 5. But many of the protesters have vowed to remain in place, worried that the details of the Army's decision were too unclear. President-elect Donald Trump has recently said that he supports finishing the pipeline, which is nearly complete

Archambault has urged the incoming Trump administration, North Dakota government and the management at Energy Transfer Partners (which is building the pipeline) to respect the Army's decision.

"Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision," said Archambault in a statement. "With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well."