U.S. Calls for Halt to Dakota Access Pipeline Construction

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A joint statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior said Friday (9/9) that “the Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline on [Army Corps of Engineers] land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.

(“Oahe Dam, SD takes its name from the Oahe Indian Mission established among the Lakota Sioux Indians in 1874,” according to the CorpsLakeGateway web site. “Lake Oahe extends from Pierre, SD to Bismarck, ND. The lake is 231 miles long, and has 2,250 miles of shoreline.”)

The joint statement also requested that, “the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity with 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.”

The statement added that, “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; Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions: (1) within existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights, and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter the statutory framework and promote those goals.”

The statement went on: “Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely. We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. Of course, any who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state or local authorities. The Departments of Justice and The Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protests and maintain public safety.

“In recent days, 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.”

In short, the notice indicates a highly unusual common-sense action on the part of government agencies better known for turning a blind eye to, or actively participating in, violations of native Americans’ rights.

Commercial interests, in this instance, seem to be on the losing end of a clearly wrong effort to put money in front of morals. ‘About time, too!

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