North Dakota: Running out of options to stop pipeline, says Standing Rock Sioux leader

A security volunteer stands in the Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota on January 24, 2017. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 09, 2017, 04.58 AM (IST)

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe may have exhausted legal options to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline project after the company building it won federal permission to tunnel under the Missouri River, the leader of the Native American tribe told Reuters on Wednesday.

"We're running out of options, but that doesn't mean that it's over," David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, told Reuters. "We're still going to continue to look at all legal options available to us."

According to Reuters, legal experts have agreed that the tribe faces long odds in convincing any court to halt the $3.8 billion project led by Energy Transfer Partners LP, which could now begin operation as soon as June.

On Wednesday the US Army said it had granted the final permit for the pipeline after an order from President Donald Trump to step up the project,

The permit was the last bureaucratic hurdle to the pipeline's completion.

Wayne D'Angelo, an energy and environmental lawyer with Kelley Drye & Warren in Washington, told Reuters he believed the Trump administration was on "pretty solid legal ground".

The tribe would have to prove a very difficult standard: that approval for the pipeline was "arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion or inconsistent with the record before the agency", D'Angelo said.

The army owns the land through its Corps of Engineers and according to his federal disclosures form, Trump holds stock in the company building the Dakota Access oil pipeline, CBS reports. While the amount of stock in Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners is modest compared to the rest of Trump's portfolio, estimated at between $15,000 and $50,000, he also owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, which has a one-quarter share of Dakota Access, CBS reports.

On Wednesday, around  350 people came together in lower Manhattan, hoisting signs like "Water is Life," "Dump Trump" and "Respect Native Sovereignty".

"This isn't just a Native American problem, this isn't just an issue over race, this goes way beyond that," Matene Strikefirst, a member of the tribe of Ojibwe and Dakota, told Reuters. 

"We need to get over our dependence on fossil fuels; we need to ensure drinking water for everyone." Another 100 protesters denounced Trump outside the White House,

"We know there is going to be bloodshed," said Eryn Wise, spokeswoman for the International Indigenous Youth Council, Reuters reported. "This is cultural genocide," said Linda Black Elk, a resident of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation told Reuters.

The 1,885-kilometre line is being built to move crude from the shale oilfields of North Dakota to Illinois en route to the Gulf of Mexico, where many US refineries are located. Native American tribes and climate activists fear it will desecrate sacred sites and endanger drinking water.

Thousands of people, including high-profile politicians and celebrities have protested against the pipeline in the last few months. Large protest camps popped up near the site, triggering violent clashes and about 600 arrests.

Those protesting against the pipeline had their hopes high after the Obama administration delayed the completion of the pipeline pending a review of tribal concerns and ordered an environmental study in December.

Trump, however, issued an order on January 24, to expedite Dakota Access Pipeline, four days after taking office. He also revived another multibillion-dollar oil artery, Keystone XL which the Obama administration had blocked in 2015.

Despite months of high-profile protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline--where protesters were shot by police with rubber bullets, attacked by police dogs and sprayed with water in freezing temperatures--Donald Trump claimed that "nobody showed up to fight it".

(WION with inputs from Reuters)