While Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access oil pipeline advances toward the resistance camp now directly in its path, it faces perhaps an even bigger obstacle than several hundred water protectors hunkered down for the winter: a lack of final permits for its Missouri River crossing.
And those permits do not seem imminent. The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that the Army will not issue permits for the crossing under Lake Oahe, a half-mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the source of its drinking water, until it has reviewed the issues raised by the tribe, according to a report on KFYR-TV.
“While the Army continues to review issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members, it will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe,” Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle told the news station in an e-mail on Tuesday October 25. Earlier in the day, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman David Archambault II had requested a DOJ investigation into civil and human rights abuses by police and other authorities against the protectors. “In the interim, the departments of the Army, Interior, and Justice have reiterated our request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”
It was not clear whether the construction was within that zone. More than 127 people have been arrested since Saturday October 22 as they blocked work on the pipeline, which is nearly complete in the four states it runs through. The $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline would bring crude from the Bakken oil fields in northwestern North Dakota to hubs in Illinois.
Three federal agencies—the Department of the Army, Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency—requested in September that Dakota Access avoid building within a 20-mile buffer on either side of Lake Oahe while the issues were resolved. Since then, a series of meetings have been held between the three federal agencies and tribes to explore ways to ensure that consultation sessions include free, prior and informed consent on infrastructure and projects that will have an impact on Native nations.
“The Justice Department is taking the situation in North Dakota seriously,” the DOJ statement said, adding that it is consulting with local authorities as well.