Update, Dec. 4 at 3:30 p.m. PT: The U.S. Army announced today that permission for the current Dakota Access Pipeline route will be denied. A statement released by Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army, Civil Works, said, “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. The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.” According to Time, work on the controversial pipeline will halt so the Army Corps of Engineers can conduct an environmental impact study. The study would look at possible alternative routes for the 1,170-mile project.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell then released a statement in support of the Army’s decision:
Just in: Statement from Secretary of the Interior on Army's decision to halt Dakota Access Pipeline work pic.twitter.com/8SQVXT7tRt
— Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) December 4, 2016
On Dec. 2, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch released a statement on The United States Department of Justice’s Facebook page:
The North Dakota Access pipeline protest is reaching the breaking point. Since its inception, the pipeline has been the source of contentious debate and protest. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which owns at least part of the land the line is slated to be built on, sued the federal government, alleging the tribe was not properly consulted about the project. On Sept. 9, the federal district court ruled that construction could continue on the pipeline. Thousands of people have joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe since then. Recently, the North Dakota governor Jack Dalrymple, issued an executive order for the expulsion of the DAPL protestors by Dec. 5, citing “harsh winter conditions.” Protestors have no plans to leave.
Since the beginning of the protests, protesters and police officers have clashed violently. There has been an increase in violence as tensions have soared. Police are now spraying cold water and releasing tear gas on protesters in below-freezing temperatures. Protesters, also called water protectors, have sustained multiple injuries caused by rubber bullets. It’s a nerve-wracking situation. If you’re not sure what’s going on, here’s your chance to catch up.
1. It’s going to be huge (if it’s ever built)
The pipeline — as proposed — is a 1,168-mile U.S. oil route that would stretch through four states. The purpose of the pipeline is to transfer crude oil from North Dakota into South Dakota, through Iowa and to Illinois. The project will cost $3.7 billion to complete — if it’s ever done.
2. It’s all about the money, money, money
Proponents of the plan believe the North Dakota Access Pipeline is an important step in helping the United States become more self-reliant in terms of energy instead of relying on foreign nations. Economists say it will give the state of North Dakota $156 million in sales and income taxes along with adding up to 12,000 construction jobs. Dakota Access, the project developer, claims the pipeline is the safest, most cost-effective, environmentally friendly way to extract the crude oil reserves found in North Dakota. The alternative would mean depending on rails and trucks.
3. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is leading the charge
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is a federally recognized Indian tribe centered in the Fort Yates, North Dakota, area. Tribal leaders say the construction of the pipeline threatens the tribe’s environmental and economic well-being. The pipeline, according to the Sioux tribe, would also damage the site’s history, religion and culture. The safety of the tribe’s drinking water is also a looming question. Environmental groups have joined the tribe to petition the construction of the pipeline with hopes that President Obama will reject the project as he did the Keystone XL pipeline. The petition to stop the whole thing reached 300,000 signatures by press time.
4. It’s all about resolve
The North Dakota Access pipeline protest is being touted as the largest gathering of Native American tribes in 100 years. So far, the courts have ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, but those setbacks have only made the protesters more determined. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe raised thousands of dollars and they’ve received an untold number of donations in support of their efforts.
As the Dec. 5 mandatory evacuation of the DAPL protesters approaches, it’s important to keep in mind there are actions you can take to help their efforts — actions that don’t require you to drive up to North Dakota.
Originally published September 2016. Updated December 2016.