Oil will be flowing in the Dakota Access pipeline by March 20 and more likely by Monday, according to Energy Transfer Partner’s latest court-filed status update, but members of the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes vowed to continue efforts to shut the $3.7 billion pipeline down at both a press conference Wednesday and a national protest in Washington D.C. that was to conclude today with a march on the Capitol.
The press conference followed on a decision Tuesday by Judge James Boasberg in federal district court in Washington D.C. to allow drilling under Lake Oahe to continue while the legal process plays out.
In making his ruling, Boasberg said he did not believe the tribes were likely to prevail in their motions, in which one cites water safety concerns and violations of their tribal treaty rights, and the other cites religious freedoms.
Representatives of the tribes, however, said they still believe their case is strong, and that the critical legal components of it have just begun.
“Trump and his friends at Big Oil have not won,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said in a media release. “While this preliminary ruling is disappointing, it’s not surprising. It is very difficult to get an injunction in a case like this. The bigger legal battle is ahead. We stand strong.”
Standing Rock contends that a full environmental impact statement is required by law before a permit can be issued to drill under Lake Oahe, and that careful consideration of tribal treaties and rights under those treaties is also required.
Jan Hasselman, an attorney with Earthjustice representing Standing Rock, said “The Trump administration’s issuance of the easement violates both of these legal requirements. If the judge rules that the permits are illegal, he can still shut the pipeline operation down.”
Standing Rock, Cheyenne River and other tribes began the protest in Washington D.C. Tuesday. It was to continue through Friday, concluding with the Native Nations Rise March from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the Ellipse for a rally, where they will demand that the Trump administration respect the Environmental Impact Statement process and the tribal treaty rights.
Tribal representatives said about 300 tribes are taking part in the protest, including a busload from North Dakota that includes youths from Fort Berthold and Standing Rock. Those who could not participate in the D.C. event were encouraged to schedule actions in their own communities. A website for the effort cited 9,528 actions taken nationwide.
“They want us to believe the fight is over,” Archambault said, “but we can still win this. We can unite in peaceful prayerful resistance against this illegal pipeline. Now we are calling on all our Native relatives and allies to rise with us. We must march against injustice — Native nations cannot continue to be pushed aside to benefit corporate interests and government whim.”
The Dakota Access pipeline was proposed to carry up to 570,000 barrels a day of Bakken crude to Illinois. It is a 30-inch pipeline traveling 1,172 miles. Members of the industry have said it is vital to the future of the Bakken, and Department of Mineral Resources Director Lynn Helms has said it will lower transportation costs an average $7 per barrel, further improving economics for the nation’s No. 2 tight-oil play.
Estimates of tax revenue from the pipeline put it at $100 million, and that figure has already been incorporated into state budget projections.