FOR THE WEEK OF DEC. 12, 2016
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A long, tense standoff that drew global attention took a major turn recently. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a big victory, at least temporarily, in a battle to block oil pipeline construction near its North Dakota reservation. A federal agency decided not to let the energy project drill under the Missouri River. Instead, the Army Corps of Engineers will seek other route choices for the $3.7-billion Dakota Access pipeline.
Work on the pipeline a half-mile from the Indian reservation became a flash point for environmental and native rights protests. Thousands of demonstrators, including military veterans, created a sprawling campground of tents, tepees and bunkhouses in a small community colorfully named Cannon Ball, N.D. "It's wonderful," Standing Rock tribal chairman says Dave Archambault II said after the Dec. 4 decision. The growing protest "brought the attention of the world," he added.
The tribe doesn't want oil flowing near their drinking water source. Any spill could poison water for them, as well as other reservations and cities downstream. They also said the route crossed sacred ancestral lands on privately owned ranches. The incoming administration in Washington, D.C., could reverse this month's decision and allow the original route. President-elect Donald J. Trump supports finishing the 1,170-mile line across four states, which is nearly done. Trump owns stock shares in the pipeline builder, Energy Transfer Partners. A federal judge last Friday scheduled a February hearing on a push by the firm to force the government to let it finish work soon.
Federal official says: "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing." -- Jo-Ellen Darcy, U.S. Army assistant secretary for civil works
Author says: "Someday, I hope we look back to Standing Rock as the place where we came to our senses. Where new coalitions formed. Where we became powerful together as we realized that we have to preserve land, water, the precious democracy that is our pride." – Louise Erdrich, novelist who is a Chippewa Indian and joined the protest
Pipeline advocate says: "We are hopeful that this is not the final word on the Dakota Access Pipeline." – Craig Stevens of the MAIN Coalition, a construction industry group