Tag Archives: standing-rock

Energy Transfer Partners has until April to develop an oil-spill response plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Today, the president signed two proclamations drastically cutting land from two federal monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument last year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes — the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni — who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region.

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement. “But we came back.”

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to establish national monuments, largely to thwart looting of archaeological sites. Trump is the first president to shrink a monument in decades.

The five tribes have said they will bring a legal case against the administration — the outcome could redefine the president’s powers to use the Antiquities Act. “We know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears,” Filfred said.

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Energy Transfer Partners has until April to develop an oil-spill response plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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A state agency filed a complaint against the security company that tracked and targeted DAPL opponents.

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A state agency filed a complaint against the security company that tracked and targeted DAPL opponents.

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Oil Will Start Flowing Through the Dakota Pipeline Any Moment Now

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

As of this week, Bakken oil is expected to flow through the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This development comes as court proceedings continue over the high-profile battle over the pipeline that drew thousands of protestors to North Dakota last year. As law enforcement officers and Indigenous activists faced off near the construction site, the conflict played out in real time on social media, capturing international attention.

A District of Columbia court has yet to rule on the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes’ claims that the Army Corps of Engineers violated environmental, historic-preservation and religious-freedom laws in its approval of the pipeline. A ruling is likely still several weeks away. The tribes have tried for temporary restraining orders to stop the flow of oil until the case is decided, but judges have rejected those as well. Dakota Access, LLC, is required to update the court weekly on whether the pipeline operations have begun; on March 20, the company said they expected oil to flow this week.

The fact that the pipeline’s backers, Energy Transfer Partners, appears to be prevailing is not surprising. Although the Obama administration had put DAPL on hold in December and called for further environmental review, then-President-elect Donald Trump vowed to push the project through once he took office. But national attention the protests brought to the flaws of the current consultation process—the federal government’s responsibilities to consult with tribes before approving major infrastructure projects that affect tribal lands—may still bear fruit on future disputes. And recent legal proceedings remind us how difficult it is for tribes to argue for religious freedom in court.

Following Trump’s late-January executive order to allow the pipeline to be finished, the Cheyenne River Sioux, located just south of the Standing Rock Reservation, filed a motion for a restraining order against the pipeline. Unlike the Standing Rock Sioux complaint based more around environmental and historic preservation violations, Cheyenne River’s argument claims the government violated the Religious Freedom Reformation Act (RFRA). “The Lakota people believe that the mere existence of a crude oil pipeline under the waters of Lake Oahe will desecrate those waters and render them unsuitable for use in their religious sacraments,” court documents say.

RFRA has an unreliable track record for tribes in court. Congress created the law in 1993 in part as a response to two cases in which courts sided with the government. In 1988 Lyng vs. Northwest Indian Cemetery Protective Association allowed the Forest Service to construct a logging road in California that would have disrupted an area sacred to several tribes. In 1990 Employment Division vs. Smith allowed two Native Americans in Oregon to be fired for failing a drug test because they had used peyote as an element of religious ceremony. But experts say RFRA’s original intention, to protect tribes from similar infringements, isn’t really bearing out in court. The most recent major failure was the case of the Snowbowl ski resort in Arizona in which reclaimed wastewater was being used to make snow on mountains sacred to several tribes. The tribes argued a violation of RFRA and ultimately lost.

RFRA has, however, worked for corporations such as Hobby Lobby. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled family-owned corporations should not be required to cover employees’ contraception because doing so may infringe on a company’s religious beliefs. Part of the challenge for tribes, says University of Colorado law professor Charles Wilkinson, is one of translation. “Most Americans are not used to the nature of tribal religions, of having ceremonies on particular land areas as being significant to their religion,” Wilkinson says. Court documents show Cheyenne River’s attorneys explaining how the tribe views the pipeline:

“Although there can be no way of knowing when this prophesy emerged into the Lakota worldview, Lakota religious adherents now in their 50s and 60s were warned of the Black Snake by their elders as children. The Black Snake prophecy is a source of terror and existential threat in the Lakota worldview…. Lakota adherents believe that the Black Snake poses an existential threat because it will cause critical imbalance in an essential resource of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe: the natural, ritually pure waters of Lake Oahe.”

“You can kind of get that sense, there’s some question raised in opposing parties arguments of ‘Do they really believe this,'” says Monte Mills, a University of Montana law professor. In court in February, Judge James Boasberg reportedly questioned how a pipeline would desecrate the Missouri River if the oil itself never touched the water.

The most lasting impact of the Dakota Access battle might be greater federal attention to the process through which the U.S. government is supposed to consult tribal governments about proposed infrastructure projects that might impact those nations, says Wilkinson. “(Tribes) see consultation as almost a four-letter word,” Wilkinson says. “It’s so often just checking a box.” A 38-page memo from former Obama administration Interior Solicitor Hilary Tompkins in December described in detail the ways in which the government failed to consult tribes that may be affected by the pipeline. At one point, Tompkins notes that a draft Environmental Assessment for DAPL “failed to even identify the reservation on its maps and incorrectly said the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had no issue with the project.” (The Trump administration suspended the memo and removed it from the Interior website in February.)

Similarly, a 73-page report released in January by the Corps of Engineers, the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior about consultation—not limited to DAPL—highlighted flaws in the process, after seeking comment from 59 tribes across the country. The report includes problems with the way the federal government “tends to look at (infrastructure) projects in a segmented way…For example, in the Dakota Access Pipeline review, four different states, three separate districts of the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Fish and Wildlife Service each looked at different parts of the project, but did not coordinate the impacts to Tribes.” That report requested further action from several federal agencies by April 2017, in establishing better consultation processes.

“Many federal statutes require consultations with states, counties and tribes,” Wilkinson says. “Maybe one way or another Standing Rock could be valuable as raising that issue.”

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Oil Will Start Flowing Through the Dakota Pipeline Any Moment Now

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Here’s how the Standing Rock Sioux will keep fighting Dakota Access — in court

By some accounts, the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline now looks unwinnable. Standing Rock became a ghost town last week after police raided and razed the prayer camp that once hosted thousands of water protectors. Earlier this month, the Trump administration fast-tracked approval to build the final section of the pipeline and cancelled the environmental impact statement ordered by President Obama. Construction is nearing completion and oil could flow through the pipeline as early as March 6. For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, time is running out — fast.

The Sioux’s best shot at stopping Dakota Access now lies in court. It may be a long shot, but a legal win is still possible, some advocates say.

A legal challenge filed by the tribe on Feb. 14 charges pipeline builder Dakota Access, LLC, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with a range of environmental, cultural, and treaty-based violations. It asks a federal judge to rule on whether the Army Corps broke laws and treaties by allowing construction of the last leg of the pipeline under Lake Oahe, a reservoir along the Missouri River in North Dakota.

“What you have is this well-supported decision from a past administration to do more and give a full consideration to treaty rights, and then the second administration throws it in the trash,” says Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice, who’s representing the tribe in its lawsuit. “That’s just not how it works.”

“It’s absolutely not over,” says Kyle Powys Whyte, a professor of philosophy and community sustainability and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He’s been closely tracking the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and he thinks the tribes fighting the project have a good legal case. “Absolutely I think there’s a chance to stop this thing.”

One of the Sioux’s main legal complaints is that construction of the pipeline near its reservation and through sites it considers sacred would violate the tribe’s treaty rights — specifically, its rights under the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties. At the heart of the matter is the Sioux’s right to self-determination and tribal sovereignty. Tribes like the Sioux are independent, self-governing nations like any other in the world. And the sovereignty of tribal nations preexists the United States, just like the nations themselves.

Many Native Americans believe that this sovereignty is now under extreme threat. The administration of Donald Trump may be the most hostile to Indian tribes since that of Andrew Jackson, who caused the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, argues Matthew Fletcher, a professor of law at Michigan State University and a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

The tribe’s legal motion also charges that the Army Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act by terminating an environmental review of the pipeline, and violated the Clean Water Act as well.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has joined the Standing Rock Sioux in its legal challenge, and on Feb. 22, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed its own motion in the case, calling on the court to reject the Army Corps’ permit for pipeline construction. Several other allies, such as the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, have filed amicus briefs supporting the Standing Rock Sioux’s legal case.

Hasselman believes the Sioux have strong legal claims that could lead to the pipeline’s approval being overturned. If the current legal motion fails, he says the tribe will appeal in federal circuit court. Even if oil starts flowing in the pipeline in the interim, it could still be shut off down the line, Hasselman told the Bismarck Tribune.

And tribes are waging other legal battles against the pipeline too. On Feb. 9, the Cheyenne River Sioux filed a motion to temporarily halt construction on the grounds that the pipeline would violate their right to religious freedom by desecrating the sacred waters of Lake Oahe.

“I really hope that the case for religious freedom works,” Powys Whyte says. “This can’t possibly be a country where someone’s business idea can trample someone’s constitutional right to practice their religion.”

The Oglala Sioux Tribe joined the fray on Feb. 13 with its own lawsuit claiming that the pipeline threatened its treaty rights to safe drinking water.

The Cheyenne River Sioux’s religious claim was heard on Feb. 28, and a judge intends to rule on it by March 7. Other motions should be considered in the coming weeks. Still, it could take months, if not years, for all of these cases to move through the courts.

Even if pipeline opponents’ lawsuits are not successful in stopping the pipeline, Powys Whyte sees other gains that have come from the #NoDAPL fight. Standing Rock has provided a template for an indigenous-led movement against projects that pose threats to the environment and to tribes’ sovereignty — a template that could prove crucial to activists over the next four years. He points to two other battles for indigenous rights that will be heating up in coming months: the resistance against the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Tohono O’odham Nation’s staunch opposition to Trump building a border wall on their reservation in Arizona.

Powys Whyte urges non-indigenous environmentalists to get educated about Native American history and tribal rights, and to consult with tribes and incorporate their concerns into campaigns. “Part of the reason why non-indigenous activists are coming late to the Dakota Access fight is because they weren’t aware of the vulnerability and susceptibility Native tribes have,” Powys Whyte says. To learn more, he recommends reading the Native Appropriations blog and the Standing Rock syllabus.

“Literally, if more people supported democratic tribal sovereignty, we wouldn’t have something like the Dakota Access Pipeline happening,” Powys Whyte says.

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Here’s how the Standing Rock Sioux will keep fighting Dakota Access — in court

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Trump says he didn’t get a single phone call opposing his pipeline approvals.

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to withdraw $3 billion from the bank, in part because it is funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the city’s mayor said he would sign the measure.

The vote delivered a win for pipeline foes, albeit on a bleak day for the #NoDAPL movement. Earlier in the day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will allow construction of the pipeline’s final leg and forgo an environmental impact statement.

Before the vote, many Native speakers took the floor in support of divestment, including members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Tsimshian First Nation, and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

Seattle will withdraw its $3 billion when the city’s current contract with Wells Fargo expires in 2018. Meanwhile, council members will seek out a more socially responsible bank. Unfortunately, the pickings are somewhat slim, as Bank of America, Chase, CitiBank, ING, and a dozen other banks have all invested in the pipeline.

While $3 billion is just a small sliver of Wells Fargo’s annual deposit collection of $1.3 trillion, the council hopes its vote will send a message to other banks. Activism like this has worked before — in November, Norway’s largest bank sold all of its assets connected to Dakota Access. With any luck, more will follow.

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Trump says he didn’t get a single phone call opposing his pipeline approvals.

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"I Didn’t Come Here to Lose": How a Movement Was Born at Standing Rock

Mother Jones

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Ome Tlaloc walked through the North Dakota hills with a flashlight and a walkie-talkie, scouting for police in the prairie dark. Earlier that evening, I’d met the 30-year-old on Highway 1806, where he’d been sitting behind a makeshift barricade. Now he was doing reconnaissance. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department and the National Guard, stationed ahead of us on the road, were planning to raid the camp where Tlaloc and hundreds of other protesters had been living for the past week. The barricade was meant to stop the cops, or at least to slow them down. As he walked, Tlaloc listened to his radio for the code words that would signal when he and his comrades were to spring into action: “Eagle’s Claw.”

The Standing Rock Sioux reservation sits in the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, an endless sweep of elephan­tine hills once home to millions of members of the Lakota Nation. Today, it’s inhabited by fewer than 9,000 of their surviving descendants, and one of the few places in America where buffalo roam wild. In late July, the Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners informed the Standing Rock Sioux that in five days its subsidiary would begin construction on a section of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) next to the reservation. After that, members of more than 200 Native American tribes and their allies gathered to block what would be America’s longest crude oil pipeline. Their encampments of teepees, tents, and RVs were mostly ignored by the media until private security guards set dogs on protesters and a few journalists were arrested, sparking a national conversation about tribal sovereignty, environmental racism, and police brutality.

The October night I met Tlaloc, the stakes in the #NoDAPL movement were as high as they’d ever been. If the “water protectors,” as the protesters called themselves, were cleared out, the pipeline would continue east under the Missouri River, coming within 1,500 feet of Lake Oahe, the Standing Rock Sioux’s water supply. A leak or spill, activists believed, would poison the drinking water of as many as 10 million people, nearly all of them on Native American reservations. The protesters’ goal was to block construction until March 2017, when Dakota Access would have to reapply for a federal construction permit—a delay that might make the project financially unfeasible. If the protesters were removed before then, Dakota Access would complete the 1,172-mile pipeline that would transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude a day. (On December 4, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would not approve a permit for the pipeline to run beneath Lake Oahe.)

Police have responded to the protests with teargas, tasers, water cannons, rubber bullets, and armored vehicles.

Native Americans of all ages have protested against the pipeline.

Tlaloc stopped at the top of a ridge. Off in the distance was the trench holding the lengths of 30-inch metal pipe. “An old Sioux prophecy says that a black snake will come to destroy the world at a moment of great uncertainty,” he said. “Unless the youth stop it.”

Back at the barricade, men in camo fatigues sipped cowboy coffee and waited. Pup tents formed a circle around a pit fire. “They’ve killed us before,” said Harry Beauchamp, a 63-year-old Assiniboine from Montana. Resting his cowboy boots on a soup pot, he told us about his participation in the 1973 standoff between members of the American Indian Movement and law enforcement agents in South Dakota that ended in the deaths of two Native American activists. A few weeks earlier, he’d been attacked by a dog brought in by a pipeline security contractor. His future son-in-law, he said, was bringing him a rifle. “I’m not going to let this be another Wounded Knee,” he said.

Left: Chanse Adams-Zavalla. The #NoDAPL protesters have occupied three main encampments.

Dancers in front of a sacred fire in a protest camp

The next day, a pale sun burned through the morning haze, backlighting 200 sheriff’s deputies and National Guardsmen in full riot gear. Behind them were an armored personnel carrier, a land-mine-resistant truck, and the pipeline’s private security force—overseen by TigerSwan, a North Carolina firm that’s done work for the US government in Afghanistan and Iraq. “This is a state highway,” a police commander said into a loudspeaker. “You must clear the road.”

On August 19, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who served as an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, had declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard mobilized three weeks later. On September 3, security contractors turned dogs on the protesters. Not long afterward, Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault II asked the Justice Department to investigate civil rights violations against activists. “This country has a long and sad history of using military force against indigenous people—including the Sioux Nation,” he wrote. “When I see the militarization taking place in North Dakota against Indian people, I am genuinely concerned.”

Over the next 12 hours, I watched as grandmothers with red feathers in their hair, Oglala elders in cer­emonial regalia, and teens astride horses were teargassed, tased, and arrested. Cops fired rubber bullets at protesters and blasted them with earsplitting whines from Long Range Acoustic Devices. As the police marched down the highway, the crowd, echoing Black Lives Matter protesters, held their arms in the air and shouted, “Hands up, don’t shoot!”

Native Americans are more likely to be killed by police than members of any other group, even African Americans. More than 1 in 4 Native people live in poverty. (The average individual income on the Standing Rock reservation is $4,421.) Native unemployment levels are nearly double those of the overall population; their youth suicide rate is the highest in the nation.

Protesters watch as the police destroy a campsite.

A Sioux leader asked the Justice Department to investigate “the militarization taking place in North Dakota against Indian people.”

Many at Standing Rock saw the threat of environmental catastrophe as inextricable from racial injustice. An early proposal to route the Dakota Access Pipeline through Bismarck, 45 miles north of the reservation, was rejected by the US Army Corps of Engineers because of concerns that it could harm the municipal water supply. (Bismarck’s population is 92 percent white.) “But it’s okay if it poisons Natives’ water, right?” said Chanse Adams-Zavalla, a 22-year-old who grew up on the Maidu reservation just north of Santa Barbara, California. He wore a camouflage backpack that had “Fuck Off” written on it and a matching camo cap that said “Smile More.” In May 2015, the coastline near his reservation was ravaged by the rupture of an oil pipeline. “It’s disgusting what happened to my people, bro, and we’re still being treated that way,” he said.

Young protesters with red bandannas over their faces dragged tree trunks onto the highway and set them on fire. A heavyset teen stood before the flaming barricade, his back to the police. “Stop lighting these barricades on fire, brothers!” he said. “I’m a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.” He paused and looked at his feet like he might cry. “After this, I have to live here.”

“Sellout!” a young man in a balaclava shouted, hurling a tire onto the pyre. Someone else picked up the chant. “Sellout! Sellout!”

The scene underscored the conflicts within the anti-pipeline movement. Some activists, led in part by a group of protesters who lived in a compound called Red Warrior Camp, were committed to stopping the pipeline through direct action. While many Standing Rock Sioux were out on the front lines, Archambault was also lobbying Washington in hopes of a legal victory. In early November, Red Warrior Camp was asked to leave Standing Rock for promoting tactics that the tribal leadership thought were too extreme. There were also tensions between white-led environmental groups like 350.org, which focuses on climate change, and Native activists, who believe the larger issue is one of tribal sovereignty and the unfinished struggle for Native American rights. The protesters were spread among three encampments, including a largely Native camp and another filled with white activists that I heard described as the “Brooklyn” of Standing Rock.

Back at the barricades, Miles Allard, a Sioux man with a white mullet, rushed to the assistance of the teen who’d tried to calm the crowd. “The only way we’re going to win this is by prayer,” Allard said. “If we use violence, we will lose.”

“I didn’t come here to lose,” Beauchamp said, dropping a bundle of kindling onto the pavement before walking off in anger. “And I didn’t come here to fight my own brothers. I quit. I’m going home.”

“Why do they want to kill us?” asked LaDonna Allard over breakfast at the Prairie Knights Casino and Resort, the area’s largest employer. Allard, a Sioux woman, was hosting a protest camp on her land; she was accompanied by her husband, Miles, who had called for nonviolence at the barricades a few days earlier. The police had won those clashes, clearing the road and arrest­ing 142 protesters, including the Allards’ daughter, Prairie. (During a prior arrest, Allard said, her daughter was stripped naked, left in a cell overnight, and asked repeatedly, “Who’s your mother?”) Construction resumed on the pipeline, whose North Dakota section was roughly 95 percent complete.

Allard recalled the life of her great-great-grandmother, Nape Hote Win, who as a nine-year-old survived the 1863 Whitestone massacre, an attack by the US Army 50 miles east of Standing Rock. She was held in a prisoner-of-war camp for seven years. That battle paved the way for the Standing Rock Sioux to be confined to their current reservation. Allard’s father had to flee his land in 1948 after the government dammed the Missouri, flooding his farm. Her father and son were buried along the pipeline’s path.

On Election Day, Energy Transfer Partners announced that it would defy a request from the Obama administration to postpone construction and would begin tunnel­ing under Lake Oahe in two weeks. CEO Kelcy Warren had given more than $100,000 to support Trump, a stockholder. “Overall, I’m very, very enthusiastic about what’s going to happen with our country,” Warren told investors after the election. In mid-November, the Army Corps of Engineers stepped in and said it would not allow completion of the pipeline until there had been further review of its environmental impact. Reaffirming that decision in early December, the Corps said it would consider alternate routes for the pipeline. ETP attacked the decision as “the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.”

“We’re in a war,” Allard said, beginning to cry. “How did this happen? I did nothing wrong. I have a right to say ‘no.’ I have a right to live in my own country, on my own land.”

Police spray water on demonstrators in below-freezing temperatures.

Left: Nighttime protests on Highway 1806. Right: Medics assist an injured protester.

Later that night, I passed Beauchamp’s tent, but it was empty. He had gone back to Montana, feeling bitter and defeated. Adams-Zavalla, however, was in great spirits. “This isn’t the end of our movement,” he said. “It’s the beginning.” Fifty horses had just arrived from the Oglala-Sioux reservation, as had 100 Native American youth runners who’d jogged from Arizona. That afternoon the Seven Council Fires had been lit for the second time since 1862, a ceremony in which the seven branches of the Dakota Sioux demonstrated their unity. “When my grandkids ask me where I was during Standing Rock,” Adams-Zavalla said, “I know what I’m going to tell them.”

“Even if somehow, someway, they build this pipeline,” he went on, “they’ve inadvertently sparked a whole generation of us indigenous folks and everyone who wants to stand with us to fight for Mother Earth. We’re going to inherit this planet, bro, and everyone’s welcome to inherit it with us if they want.”

Around us, protesters were chopping wood, battening down tarps, and getting ready for the long Dakota winter. On a hill overlooking the camp, DAPL roughnecks labored away. The moment was uncertain, yet jubi­lant—each side racing toward the future it imagined.

Inside the main protest camp.

Police sprayed mace at protesters who crossed the Cannonball River.

Water protectors march from the main camp to the bridge on Highway 1806.

These horseback riders traveled for three days along the pipeline.

The first snowfall in Standing Rock

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"I Didn’t Come Here to Lose": How a Movement Was Born at Standing Rock

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The Governor of North Dakota Has Ordered the Eviction of Thousands of Anti-Pipeline Protesters

Mother Jones

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North Dakota Governor Jack Dalyrimple has issued an executive order demanding the “mandatory evacuation of all persons” from the main site of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The executive order, issued earlier today, requires all people located on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers to leave immediately. They are forbidden from returning under penalty of arrest. The order could lead to the mass eviction and possible arrest of thousands of #NoDAPL protesters.

On Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers notified protesters that the agency planned to close the Ocheti Sakowin camp by December 5 due to safety concerns given the increasingly cold temperatures. This weekend, the camp was blanketed in snow and temperatures dropped to 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Two days later, in response to widespread criticism, the Corps backpedaled and said it had “no plans for forcible removal” and was “seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location.” The Army Corps promised to ticket protesters who refused to leave the Ocheti Sakowin camp.

The Ocheti Sakowin camp, one of three near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, is the only protest camp that on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of protesters have lived there since August within sight of the DAPL construction site. In anticipation of a possible crackdown, the number of “water protectors” staying in teepees, tents, and RVs at the Ocheti Sakowin camp has swelled to as many as 15,000. Many more, including a caravan of Army veterans known as the Veterans for Standing Rock, were planning on arriving in coming days to show solidarity with the protesters. Protesters are also staying on private land near the pipeline construction site.

Governor Dalyrimple’s executive order claims the mandatory evacuation is a result of concerns about the protesters’ safety due to dropping temperatures and snowstorms. “All of a sudden they are so concerned for our safety?” Jeane LaRance, a supporter of the anti-pipeline protests, said on Monday night. “They weren’t worried while spraying everyone with cold water in freezing weather!”

Last Sunday, Morton County Sheriffs sprayed a crowd of about 400 protesters with a water canon in sub-zero temperatures, drawing criticism from observers. According to Jade Begay, an activist with the Indigenous Environmental Network, 167 protesters were injured, and seven were hospitalized, including a woman whose arm was seriously injured by a “less-lethal” weapon.

“We don’t expect a forced removal or a sweep of this camp relatively soon,” said Dallas Goldtooth, a leader of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a video posted from his yurt at the Ocheti Sakowin camp. “But we as a camp are prepared, are preparing, for any scenario for the protection and safety of our folks.”

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The Governor of North Dakota Has Ordered the Eviction of Thousands of Anti-Pipeline Protesters

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Police tactics at Standing Rock have escalated to using water cannons in the freezing cold.

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and right-wing pundit, told Fox News that President-elect Trump has asked him to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. (Trump tweeted that he is “seriously considering” Carson for the post.)

Carson has already turned down a chance to be Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services on the grounds that he is unprepared to run a federal agency. So how is HUD any different? Good question.

Carson lacks any relevant experience. HUD is charged with developing affordable and inclusive housing. Under the Obama administration, it has promoted smart-growth goals, such as linking low-income housing with mass transit.

During Carson’s unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, he never proposed any policies to promote low-cost or integrated housing. Asked on Fox about his knowledge of HUD’s work, Carson pointed to his experience growing up in a city.

Trump is also reportedly considering Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino to run HUD. Under Astorino, the county has failed to comply with a 2009 settlement in which it agreed to build more affordable housing.

So Trump will nominate either someone wholly unqualified or someone who opposes affordable housing. It’s almost as if the luxury real-estate developer once sued for discriminating against black tenants doesn’t care about affordability or integration.

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Police tactics at Standing Rock have escalated to using water cannons in the freezing cold.

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Watch people on the frontlines of the Dakota Access fight defend their water and their rights.

Into the ocean, it seems. New satellite data show the total area of global sea ice dipping wayyy below the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s record for this time of year.

In fact, Arctic sea ice has dropped well below the next-lowest seasonal extent ever observed (which was in 2012). That year’s all-time record low was narrowly avoided in September, the month when Arctic sea ice levels typically are at their lowest. But the fact that ice levels are lower now than they were this same time in 2012 is part of what makes this latest data so alarming.

Meanwhile, Antarctic sea ice is also much lower than usual at the end of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter.

We’ve gotten somewhat used to broken records here, but watching sea ice levels flatten out when they should be peaking is well beyond normal understanding of record lows and highs.

Meanwhile, the temperature at the North Pole right now is a not-cool 36 degrees F above average. Is this what the Upside Down feels like?

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Watch people on the frontlines of the Dakota Access fight defend their water and their rights.

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Trump’s victory could be a big win for the Dakota Access Pipeline, but opponents stand strong

The sound had not been heard in over 150 years. Rising over the remote plains of North Dakota, below a hot November sun and cloudless blue sky, the drums and song of the seven bands of the Sioux nation joined together as tribal elders lit the peta waken (sacred fire) for the first time since Abe Lincoln was President. They were surrounded by some 800 Native Americans and their allies, including women, toddlers, and the elderly, standing silently in a wide circle five people deep, heads bowed in prayer.

“The climate is already at a point of no return,” intoned Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Sioux Nation, from within the circle. “Our waters are polluted by fracking … We must stop this contamination.”

“We are supposed to stop this snake,” Jon Eagle of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in reference to the nearby Dakota Access Pipeline. “We’ve already defeated them; they just don’t know it yet.”

The ceremony was held last weekend to bring renewed unity, grounding, and prayer to the “water protectors,” as they call themselves, gathered together on this windswept grassy field amidst tipis, tents, and morning camp fires at the Oceti Sakowin camp. It is the largest of three makeshift camps erected over the past seven months by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies near — and at times on top of — the Dakota Access Pipeline route. The 1,200-mile pipeline would carry fracked oil from the Bakken shale regions of North Dakota to Illinois and on to the Gulf Coast, passing half a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation through areas of tribal spiritual and cultural significance, including under the Missouri River: the primary drinking water source for the tribe and millions of other people downstream.

Barely one week earlier, the water protectors had a pitched battle for territory on which the pipeline was set to pass, including a sacred tribal burial ground. On a hilltop to the north, just behind those gathered for the ceremony, several pieces of bright yellow construction equipment loomed. Dakota Access Pipeline’s operations were actively underway.

Dakota Access Pipeline equipment is seen at the Missouri River near Standing Rock.Reuters / Stephanie Keith

The struggle to stop the pipeline has pitted the water protectors against an increasingly militarized and aggressive police force, with the camps currently under what can only be described as a siege. Floodlights, erected either by Dakota Access or the police (or both), sit atop a hill focused down on Oceti Sakowin, shining all throughout the night, every night. Law enforcement and private security surveillance drones, helicopters, and planes constantly buzz low in circles just overhead.

Highway 1806, leading from the camp to the pipeline and a main artery of rural North Dakota, is blockaded by law enforcement and the burned carcasses of two large trucks. Armored Humvees, often with snipers in their turrets, are a frequent sight. And there is the clear and ever-present danger that if protectors try to get near the pipeline, they will be repelled with extreme measures, including but not limited to: pepper spray, rubber bullets, batons, arrests, and jail. Though these measures have not stopped the protectors — rather, they seem to have strengthened both their numbers and resolve — they have succeeded in facilitating the continued progress of the pipeline construction.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, said on Thursday that 84 percent of the entire project is complete. It has excavated and is laying pipe nearly up to, and on both sides of, the Missouri River, where just one area remains untouched: that which passes under the river.

In September, the Obama administration denied Energy Transfer Partners the easement it needs to build under the Missouri River in order to give the Army Corp of Engineers time to review the safety and advisability of doing so. The administration asked that during that review, the company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of the river.

The company flatly refused.

On Nov. 4 and again on Thursday, the Army Corps asked Energy Transfer Partners to voluntarily stop work “for a 30-day period to allow for de-escalation,” citing concern “for the safety of all the people involved with the continued demonstrations.” Each time, Energy Transfer Partners refused.

On Sunday, the Norwegian bank DNB, which represents 10 percent of the financing required to build the pipeline, announced that it would consider pulling its support if concerns raised by the Native Americans were not addressed.

Energy Transfer Partners kept building.

Two days later, Citibank, representing 20 percent of the financing, released a statement citing its own “commitment to sustainability and respect for human rights” and advocating for “constructive engagement with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in an effort to come to a resolution.”

Dakota Access not only kept building, but released its own statement on Election Day. “To be clear, Dakota Access Pipeline has not voluntarily agreed to halt construction of the pipeline in North Dakota,” it said. Rather, it would be moving horizontal drilling equipment into place in preparation for tunneling under the Missouri River, expecting “no significant delays in its plans to drill under the lake.”

In an interview last week, President Obama said that the Army Corps of Engineers was exploring ways to “reroute” the pipeline around Native American lands.

Asked about Obama’s comments, pipeline spokesperson Vicki Granado told the Guardian: “We are not aware that any consideration is being given to a reroute, and we remain confident we will receive our easement in a timely fashion.”

Donald Trump was elected president of the United States on Tuesday. The next day, the stock value of Energy Transfer Partners’ parent company rose by 15 percent, as “investors now expect the pipeline to proceed,” Barron’s reported.

“I do expect Trump to approve it,” said Ron Ness, head of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, an industry trade group.

“Dakota Access went from being in some doubt to being a solid bet with this election,” Ethan Bellamy, a senior financial analyst, said.

Much of this confidence is on solid footing.

Trump has between $500,000 and $1 million personally invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1 million holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25 percent stake in the Dakota Access project once completed.

Kelcy Warren, chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, donated $103,000 to elect Trump and $66,800 to the Republican National Committee since Trump became the party nominee.

Many of Trump’s campaign advisors and likely cabinet, moreover, are drawn directly from the ranks of companies involved and invested in the pipeline and in Bakken oil development. Together, they will form one of America’s most fossil-fuel-centric administrations since Warren B. Harding; perhaps even more so than that of George W. Bush. There are fossil fuel company executives, investors, rabid industry cheerleaders, and notorious climate change deniers. Trump has pledged to dramatically increase fossil fuel production from every nook and cranny of the United States, particularly the Bakken shale region.

“Fracking king” Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, was Trump’s campaign energy advisor and has long been seen as a leading candidate for energy secretary. Continental Resources’ Bakken oil will be carried via the completed Dakota Access Pipeline, according to its November update to investors.

Trump campaign advisor John Paulson — president and CEO of Paulson & Co. and “one of the titans of the U.S. hedge fund industry,” managing some $14 billion — is heavily invested in the U.S. oil and gas industry, particularly in the Bakken. After becoming the largest shareholder in Whiting Petroleum in 2013, Paulson surpassed Hamm to become the largest producer of oil in North Dakota before selling off his entire Whiting holdings earlier this year. Paulson’s continued investments in the sector include Oasis Petroleum, renowned for its role in the single worst accident in Bakken history, involving a blowout, explosion, two worker deaths, and a worker suicide.

Oasis is working to complete a 19-mile oil transmission system from its North Dakota petroleum handling facility to the Dakota Access Pipeline, thus positioning it to supply roughly one-ninth of the pipeline’s estimated 470,000 barrels of daily crude oil deliveries, records from the North Dakota Public Service Commission show.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is seen near New Salem, North Dakota.Tony Webster

According to Oasis Petroleum’s most recent financial filings, Paulson’s hedge fund owns the fourth-largest share of the company. Trump has invested between $3 million and $15 million in Paulson’s hedge funds.

Dennis Nuss of Phillips 66, a 25 percent owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, said Wednesday that the pipeline should be fully operational in the first quarter of 2017.

Doing so, however, would require that the Army Corps of Engineers grant the easement, either under the Obama or Trump administrations.

Last week, Standing Rock Sioux Chair Dave Archambault II recommitted the tribe to the fight against the pipeline. “If there is an easement granted,” he said, “we will sue.”

The tribe has a federal lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers pending, which argues that the Corps failed to adequately consult with the tribe and that granting the easement for the pipeline to pass under the Missouri River would do irreparable harm.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected these arguments on Sept. 9, but only under the National Historic Preservation Act. The underlying lawsuit also argues that the Corps’ permitting process violated the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Rivers and Harbors Act. None of those claims has been fully litigated.

Another lawsuit underway in Iowa goes to court next month. Landowners in six counties there argue that Energy Transfer Partners’ claims of eminent domain when using their land for the pipeline were unlawful. Protests have also been ongoing in the state, continuing on Thursday, when three protectors — bearing food, water, and sleeping bags — locked themselves inside of the pipeline. They halted construction for 17 hours next to a sign reading: “No Eminent Domain for Private Gain.”

President Obama has 70 days left in office before Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. Late Friday, conflicting reports from the administration were reported by Politico and Reuters, originally suggesting that the Obama administration might go ahead and give its approval to the pipeline on Monday, then denying those reports, then quoting spokesperson Amy Gaskill of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that a decision “would come in the next few days, possibly by Monday.”

Lorrena Alameda, age 33, and her mother Gladys Renville, age 55, Dakota Sioux from South Dakota, are among the thousands of people from some 200 tribes who have flocked to Standing Rock to defend the water and the land, including some 6,000 people this past weekend alone. Alameda expects President Obama to take action on their behalf.

“I feel like all the promises he made to us, he needs to be there right now and tell [Energy Transfer Partners] to stop doing what they’re doing, and he needs to enforce it,” Alameda tells me. “Because, right now, everything that happens here is on his watch.”

Obama has many options. He can deny the easement and order the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This was not done, the Sierra Club’s Catherine Collentine explains, because the pipeline was “fast-tracked” using a far less comprehensive environmental assessment.

The administration could deny the easement and remain open to the pipeline crossing the Missouri River at another location — i.e. reroute the pipeline. Regardless of whether the reroute also requires an EIS, it would by definition require additional study by both the federal government and the company — all of which would be both time-consuming and costly.

Every day the project is stalled or incomplete costs money, adds more time for action by the protectors and their allies, and builds concern among investors.

Energy Transfer Partners is already suffering financially, reporting on Thursday a whopping 82 percent collapse in profits in the third quarter of 2016 versus the same period last year. Moreover, it originally committed to completing the pipeline by Jan. 1, but now predicts that it will not be operational until April. Every day the Jan. 1 deadline is not met, shippers planning on using it can terminate their contracts.

Finally, Obama can deny this, or any other easement for crossing the Missouri, thereby killing the Dakota Access Pipeline altogether.

In the midst of the historic peta waken ceremony, a tribal elder admonished the President, saying, “Obama, he started this, saying what our children can be. I say, ‘Don’t start it if you can’t finish it!’ I learned that in Cambodia.”

Any of these decisions could be undone or reversed by the incoming Trump administration. But doing so would also open the door to further litigation, something Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice, the attorney representing the Standing Rock Sioux, says he is fully prepared to do. If Obama grants the easement, that too can be litigated.

Those at Standing Rock remain unflinching in their commitment to stop the pipeline. Most could not be reached for comment on Friday as they were busy stopping work on the pipeline for several hours by blocking the pipeline route and taking over Dakota Access construction equipment near Highway 6; while others were busy winterizing the camps.


Their Facebook pages are replete with responses to Trump’s election, however, including this oft-posted image. “Disappointed, but not surprised” is a common theme, as is a renewed hope that President Obama will take swift action while still in office and that support from allies will grow, such as the protests at banks that invest in the project and the “Stand for Standing Rock” day of action on Nov. 15 at Army Corps of Engineers offices around the country.

Stopping the project is the option most favored by those at Standing Rock as they do not wish the problems they seek to avoid near their home thrust upon others. Most also seek to end dependence on oil altogether.

Chair Archambault declared as the fire ceremony drew to a close: “We have to decrease the dependency on how we use oil. If not, this is just one pipeline. There will be more.”

Antonia Juhasz writes about oil. You’ll find her writing in many publications, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Harper’s Magazine and The Nation. She is the author of three books, most recently, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

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Trump’s victory could be a big win for the Dakota Access Pipeline, but opponents stand strong

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