The Army Corps of Engineers will not grant the Dakota Access Pipeline the right to drill under the Missouri River, amounting to a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
In a statement, assistant secretary for civil works Jo-Ellen Darcy said that her decision is based on the need to explore alternate routes from the pipeline’s crossing. Her office had announced in November that it was delaying plans to move forward on the easement in order to allow for further discussion with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies just half a mile south of the proposed crossing site:
“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
Darcy said that the consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis.
Tribal chairman Dave Archambault II also released a statement:
“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all of Indian Country will be forever grateful to the Obama administration for this historic decision,” he said.
“We hope that Kelcey Warren, Governor [Jack] Dalrymple, and the incoming Trump administration respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point.” Archambault said.
The news of the victory is an enormous success for the thousands who have spent the last several months protesting, though Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the tribe, warned against any premature celebration.
“They [Energy Transfer Partners] can sue, and Trump can try to overturn,” Hasselman said. “But overturning it would be subject to close scrutiny by a reviewing court, and we will be watching the new administration closely.”
Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the pipeline and had previously said it would not reroute the project, has not yet commented.
Demonstrators have been camped out at the site since August, vowing to halt the 1,172-mile pipeline intended to carry 20 million gallons of oil across the country daily.
The news comes just one day before the corps planned to evacuate the Native American and environmental activists’ encampments.
Update, 5:50 p.m.: Not everyone is happy that the pipeline has been stalled.
According to Buzzfeed, North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer said that “today’s unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country.”
“Roads, bridges, transmission lines, pipelines, wind farms, and water lines will be very difficult, if not impossible, to build when criminal behavior is rewarded this way” he said in a statement.
The state’s governor, Jack Dalrymple, denounced the move as “a serious mistake.”
“It does nothing to resolve the issue, and worst of all it prolongs the serious problems faced by North Dakota law enforcement as they try to maintain public safety,” he said in a statement. “The administration’s lack of action also prolongs the dangerous situation of having protesters camping during the winter on US Army Corps of Engineers’ property.”
Update, 6 p.m.: The Sacred Stone Camp posted a video interview with tribal chairman Dave Archambault II to Facebook:
This post will be updated.