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-CortezOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Sanders-Biden climate task force calls for carbon-free power by 2035 | Park Police did not record radio transmissions during June 1 sweep of White House protesters | Court upholds protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears Biden-Sanders 'unity task force' rolls out platform recommendations Sanders-Biden climate task force calls for carbon-free power by 2035 MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocrats awash with cash in battle for Senate Tammy Duckworth hits back at Tucker Carlson: 'Walk a mile in my legs' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark MORE (D-Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Progressive activist Ady Barkan endorses Biden, urges him to pick Warren as VP Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE (D-Mass.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerData shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Amy Kennedy wins NJ primary to face GOP's Van Drew 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 BidenBiden says he will rejoin WHO on his first day in office Tammy Duckworth is the epitome of the American Dream Mexico's president uses US visit to tout ties with Trump 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.