ND Republicans demand Obama approve Dakota Access pipeline

ND Republicans demand Obama approve Dakota Access pipeline
© Erik Molvar

Two North Dakota lawmakers and its governor are pushing President Obama to approve the Dakota Access pipeline and help law enforcement deal with protesters there.

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The politicians said both actions would help restore the rule of law.

A Wednesday letter from Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenBottom Line The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo Trump steps up GOP charm offensive as impeachment looms MORE, Rep. Kevin Cramer and Gov. Jack Dalrymple, all Republicans, came in response to the latest violence between law enforcement and protesters near Lake Oahe, where the pipeline’s developer, Energy Transfer Partners, is seeking a final easement to build.

“We call on you again to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to approve, without further delay, the final federal easement for the Lake Oahe crossing of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” the members said. 

The Obama administration this month said it had followed proper procedure when it approved the Lake Oahe easement for the pipeline, but that it wouldn’t issue it until officials consult further with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  

The members also said the Obama administration should support law enforcement policing protesters in the region.

“In the strongest terms possible, we recommend you provide federal law enforcement resources immediately to state and local agencies in order to maintain public safety, which has been threatened by ongoing — and oftentimes violent — protest activity,” they said.

They added: “These resources are essential to prevent further destruction on and surrounding federal lands.”

Standing Rock opposes the Dakota Access pipeline, warning that it threatens cultural sites and the tribe’s drinking supply. The 1,170-mile pipeline doesn’t run through tribal land, but goes under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River, which supplies their drinking water. 

Because the federal government owns land around Lake Oahe, the Army Corps needed to approve the project before it pass under the lake. Regulators attempted to consult the tribe while assessing the project this year, but the tribe declined.

A judge signed off on the approval process this fall after the tribe sued over it, but the Obama administration said it wouldn't issue the easement developers need for the pipeline until it reconsiders the project.

The Republicans' letter comes after an escalation in controversial policing tactics in the region. 

Tribal leaders have asked Obama to defuse the situation after local law enforcement dosed protesters with water canons in freezing temperatures on Sunday night. Law enforcement said the water was used to put out fires the protesters had started, and that it nothing more than a “mist.”

Even so, civil rights groups have raised objections about the actions there. In a statement, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said it was “concerned with numerous reports and testimony regarding the use of military-style equipment and excessive force against protesters.”

“We call upon federal, state, and local officials and law enforcement to work together to deescalate the situation and guarantee the safety of protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights,” the commission said.

—Updated at 3:54 p.m.