White House: Obama did not 'dictate’ Dakota Access decision

White House: Obama did not 'dictate’ Dakota Access decision
© Erik Molvar

President Obama took no part in the decision to block permits for construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, a White House spokesman said on Monday. 

“The White House did not and has not been dictating the outcome, but rather has been updated by the Army Corps on the negotiations,” Josh Earnest said during a press briefing. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The Army Corps on Sunday decided not to issue a permit to build the Dakota Access pipeline under the Missouri River in North Dakota, and instead conduct an environmental review of the project and consider alternative routes. 

The decision came after a review of the decisions that initially led regulators to approve the pipeline this summer. 

North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposes the pipeline’s proposed route and sued against it, prompting the new review. Obama last month said he approved of the Army Corps’ decision to discuss the matter further with the tribe. 

“The president believes that this type of consultation between federal agencies and local communities is important when a local community has such a significant stake in the outcome or is so significantly affected by a project like this moving forward,” Earnest said. 

Dakota Access supporters have called the pipeline decision “political” and slammed the Obama administration for denying a project that it previously approved. They hope President-elect Trump will undo the decision once he takes office next month.

The Army Corps, in a Sunday court filing, said the denial was a “policy decision” made after a five-hour meeting with tribal officials. But Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, the pipeline developers, criticized that as “Washington code for a political decision.”

“This is nothing new from this administration, since over the last four months the administration has demonstrated by its action and inaction that it intended to delay a decision in this matter until President Obama is out of office,” the companies said.

But Earnest disputed that, saying that the Army Corps alone was behind the decision.

“The result has been for this federal agency to determine that more study is required,” he said. “Ultimately that was a decision that was arrived at by the agency, in this case the U.S. Army.”