Both sides in an intense dispute over the controversial Dakota Access pipeline have appealed to federal officials, including President Obama, for help.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersUnder pressure, Democrats cut back spending The Memo: Cuts to big bill vex Democrats Democrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan MORE (I-Vt.), an early foe of the project, sent a letter to Obama on Friday asking his administration to both monitor and deescalate law enforcement activity at anti-pipeline protest sites in North Dakota.
More than 140 protesters were arrested on Thursday when a heavily-armed police force moved them off of private ground on which the protesters had established a camp. Some protesters set fire to tires and logs and broke fences during the protest, but they also said the policing tactics were heavy-handed.
“I urge you to take all appropriate measures to protect the safety of the Native Americans protesters and their supporters who have gathered peacefully to oppose the construction of the pipeline,” Sanders wrote in his letter to Obama.
Sanders echoed a Standing Rock Sioux tribe request for Justice Department observers to oversee policing at the protest. He also said Obama should direct North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple to remove National Guard forces from the protest site.
Dalrymple (R), meanwhile, was one of three governors to send a letter to Army Corps of Engineers officials asking them to quickly issue the final easement necessary for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River in North Dakota.
The easement is the lynchpin in the fight over the pipeline. The Army Corps has approved the entire pipeline route on federal land, but it hasn’t issued the easement allowing for its construction under North Dakota's Lake Oahe. That is pending an Obama administration review of the approval process.
But the governors — Dalrymple, Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) and Dennis Daugaard (R-S.D.) — said the lack of an easement is improperly delaying construction on the 1,170-mile pipeline, which crosses through all of their states.
“Further delay in issuing the easement will negatively impact our states and our citizens,” they wrote in a Thursday letter.
“Construction delays will negatively impact landowners and farmers who will risk having multiple growing seasons impacted by construction activities. It is in the best interests of all parties to mitigate any further negative impacts.”
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe has sued over the pipeline project, saying it threatens sacred sites and drinking water supplies in North Dakota. The pipeline has become a rallying cry for anti-fossil fuel advocates, but the pipeline’s developers say it is safe and meets all necessary regulatory standards.