Time to permanently block the Dakota Access pipeline

Time to permanently block the Dakota Access pipeline
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The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been entrenched in a legal battle against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) for four long years. Through it all, one thing has never changed: Our lands, waters and way of life remain at risk with each passing day that the dangerous oil pipeline remains in operation. 

The pipeline crosses the Missouri River just half a mile upstream from the border of the Standing Rock reservation. It is a place considered sacred to the Sioux nations, a landscape of extraordinary cultural and historic importance, where our ancestors were buried and where ceremonies take place. Moreover, we remain deeply concerned about the high risk of an oil spill, which would irreversibly contaminate this waterway and carry devastating implications to both the economy and the culture of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others. 

The Missouri River is the primary source of drinking water for the Tribe’s residents, and access to clean water is essential — particularly in the context of a global pandemic, which has hit Native American communities especially hard. Seventeen million people downstream also rely on the Missouri River for drinking water. Especially alarming is Energy Transfer Partners’ record of carelessness, evidenced by a string of safety violations and oil spills

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Earlier this year, a federal court in Washington D.C. agreed with the Tribe that the Trump administration rushed through the pipeline permits without a full environmental analysis, as required under federal law. The court ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to go back and complete this important process, which includes assessing alternative locations for the pipeline. Sometime in the next several weeks, we expect the court to issue a decision on whether or not to shut down the pipeline while the Corps brings itself into compliance with the law.   

Whatever the outcome of the pending decision, we remain clear that taking DAPL out of operation permanently is the only way to protect our climate and leave our lands and waters intact for future generations. It is the only way to signal to the government and private corporations that they cannot treat sovereign Indian tribes, with Treaty-protected lands, as an afterthought. It is the only way to right some small measure of the historical wrongs that the government has perpetrated on the Sioux nations throughout history. 

In other words, whichever way the court rules, it will be up to the next administration to decide whether pipeline permits should be reissued once the environmental analysis is complete. At that juncture, true leadership would mean denying permits for DAPL. 

Last month, dozens of U.S. representatives and senators — including Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOn The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline McCarthy says there will be a peaceful transition if Biden wins Anxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTexas Democratic official urges Biden to visit state: 'I thought he had his own plane' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden on Trump: 'He'll leave' l GOP laywers brush off Trump's election remarks l Obama's endorsements A game theorist's advice to President Trump on filling the Supreme Court seat MORE (D-Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds On The Money: Half of states deplete funds for Trump's 0 unemployment expansion | EU appealing ruling in Apple tax case | House Democrats include more aid for airlines in coronavirus package Warren, Khanna request IG investigation into Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds MORE (D-Mass.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe movement to reform animal agriculture has reached a tipping point Watchdog confirms State Dept. canceled award for journalist who criticized Trump 3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing MORE (D-N.J.) — filed a brief with the court supporting the Tribe’s request for a pipeline shutdown. We hope and expect that if Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFormer Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick Bloomberg rolls out M ad buy to boost Biden in Florida MORE wins the presidential race, he will show the same leadership as these members of Congress. President Obama sought to do the right thing in 2016 by blocking the final permits for DAPL to cross the Missouri River. Trump overturned this decision immediately after taking office, but violated the law in doing so. It will be up to a Biden administration to correct this wrong.

The massive 2016 gathering of Tribes and allies defending Standing Rock Sioux territory from DAPL in 2016 captured the world’s attention, and helped give rise to a global movement of indigenous resistance to fossil-fuel infrastructure projects. Long after the world’s attention has waned, we have stayed in this fight and we intend to see it through to the end. 

Mike Faith is chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.