Energy & Environment

Biden faces calls to shut down Dakota Access pipeline

Greg Nash

President Biden is facing calls to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline after a court ruled that the Trump administration broke the law when allowing for the pipeline’s construction. 

In recent days, progressive lawmakers, celebrities and indigenous leaders have asked the president to stop the operation ahead of a hearing on the court’s decision. 

On Friday, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) wrote a letter to Biden asking him to shut down the pipeline project and meet with members of impacted indigenous tribes, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. 

“By shutting down this illegal pipeline, you can continue to show your administration values the environment and the rights of Indigenous communities more than the profits of outdated fossil fuel industries,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“This is a critical step towards righting the wrongs of the past and setting our nation on a path of environmental, climate, and social justice,” they added. 

On Monday, celebrities and indigenous leaders released a similar letter

“The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the pipeline is operating illegally and gave your Administration the authority to shut down the pipeline,” the letter said. 

“We urge you to remedy this historic injustice and direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately shut down the illegal Dakota Access Pipeline while the Environmental Impact Statement process is conducted,” they wrote. 

Signatories of the letter include actors Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Don Cheadle, Chris Hemsworth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Jane Fonda, Ryan Reynolds and Shailene Woodley, musicians Cher and Cyndi Lauper, and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. 

Prominent Native Americans who signed the letter include Jodi Archambault, a former Obama adviser and citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Tom Goldtooth, the executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

On Tuesday, youth from the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux nations will hold a run to show support for stopping the pipeline’s operation. 

A White House spokesperson told The Hill that the administration is reviewing the court’s decision on the pipeline. 

The spokesperson added that the administration will follow its legal obligations, including the requirement to consult with tribal nations on decisions that impact them. 

The push comes ahead of a status conference this week on the court’s decision on what the federal government will do in response to the January hearing. 

Last month, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the government should have conducted an environmental impact statement before going forward with the pipeline and vacated easements granted for its construction to cross federally owned land.

However, it did not go as far as a lower court, which had previously ordered the pipeline shut down, leaving that decision up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). 

The court also left room for additional litigation to potentially shut down the pipeline if the USACE decides against it.

At the time, Republicans warned the Biden administration against shutting down the pipeline. 

“The Army Corps of Engineers should be allowed to proceed as they are without political interference from the Biden Administration. This is not another opportunity to wage war on North Dakota’s energy producers,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) in a statement last month. 

The pipeline, which carries oil from North Dakota to Illinois, has drawn significant opposition from environmentalists and tribes over the years, spurring massive protests.

It was completed in 2017 after it was revived by former President Trump, who reversed an Obama administration decision to deny it a permit.

The push also comes after President Biden revoked a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported oil from Canada to the U.S.

Tags Dakota Access Pipeline Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Jeff Merkley Joe Biden Kevin Cramer Raul Ruiz
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