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Obama Administration Steps Up: Dakota Access Pipeline Construction Temporarily Halted
by R. Robertson
Saturday Sep 10th, 2016 2:59 AM
Minutes after a District Court judge ruled against Standing Rock Sioux's fight to stop an earth shattering oil pipeline, the Departments of Justice, the Interior and the Army announced that the Army Corps will temporarily halt authorization for construction of the pipeline around Lake Oahe in North Dakota while it reviews decisions.

Photo: San Francisco rally against the Dakota Access Pipeline in late August.
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reports that although a District Court federal judge declined to stop the 1,100-mile fossil fuel project’s construction, in a stunning move three federal agencies have blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline pending a thorough review and reconsideration of the process. The Department of Justice, Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior said that they will not allow the pipeline to be built on U.S. Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The agencies requested that Dakota Access voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of the lake. Standing Rock Sioux stated on their Facebook page that this "sets the stage for a nationwide reform, establishing consultation with tribes regarding the need for meaningful tribal input for all pipeline projects in the future".

The three government agencies said in their joint statement that, "important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain". The statement went on to say that no construction on the Dakota Access pipeline will be authorized until it can be determined whether there need be reconsideration of any of previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. In a nod to future decisions the statement said, "this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects".

It appears that protests at the site of construction in North Dakota and across the nation, including several in San Francisco, have been worth the effort as the government statement acknowledged the role of demonstrations saying, "...we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites. It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”

The government’s block is temporary and the struggle continues, but the Obama administration may be signaling it is more willing to cancel the pipeline’s federal permits, as it did with the Keystone XL pipeline. Activists are planning continuing demonstrations to keep up the pressure.