The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are standing by their decision asking protesters to vacate the three protest camps in Morton County, portions of which lie in a floodplain, but that does not mean they are backing down from their fight against the pipeline.
They are calling instead to move the battleground to Washington D.C., and have also vowed to continue fighting the pipeline through the legal system.
Members of the tribe held a news conference Wednesday to discuss their ongoing battle against the Dakota Access pipeline, after President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed a memorandum directing federal agencies to expedite approval of the last remaining easement needed to complete it. A status hearing has been scheduled for Monday to discuss the impact of the recent executive actions on legal motions that is pending on Dakota Access.
Dakota Access was proposed to carry up to 570,000 barrels of Bakken crude per day across four states to Illinois, where the light sweet crude could more readily access the refineries that handle this type of oil. It ran aground at Lake Oahe last year, however, after members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe questioned whether water and sacred sites would be adequately protected. National environmental protesters joined the fray, bringing the matter to international attention.
The fight, Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said, is no longer just about the tribe’s treaty rights and the safety of its water and sacred sites. What he sees ahead is a shifting battleground, one that must necessarily widen its focus, and move to the nation’s Capitol.
Archambault fears that the streamlining of the permitting process President Donald Trump called for in one of the five memoranda he signed Tuesday will bring contamination to many other resources that should be protected.
“I know that this is not the only issue on the table,” Archambault said. “The environment, that is going to be violated with corporate America, with this president, and the people in the agencies have to realize that what they were brought on for is now at risk. They have to stand with us and against this president. There will be many, many issues we are facing.”
The camps that have harbored those protesting the pipeline, meanwhile, are still located in a floodplain, which poses risks not only to those still camping there, but poses environmental issues as well, with wastes at the camp getting into the river if the area is not cleaned and restored before the spring flood.
Archambault suggested there was little to no input from North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum to the Trump team, and that there was little to no input from the tribe either.
“We have been reaching out to get a meeting with the president-elect and his staff before he took office,” Archambault said, “and they didn’t want to meet.”
Archambault said it was clear from the way the memorandum was put together that Trump had talked to industry partners and supporters of the pipeline, while ignoring the concerns of protesters.
Archambault had hoped to talk with the president to discuss why the Tribe believes an Environmental Impact Statement is the right way to move forward on the pipeline.
“By granting the easement, Trump is risking our treaty rights and water supply to benefit his wealthy contributors and friends at DAPL,” Archambault had said Tuesday. “We are not opposed to energy independence. We are opposed to reckless and politically motivated development projects, like DAPL, that ignore our treaty rights and risk our water. Creating a second Flint does not make America great again.”
Archambault on Wednesday pointed to recent media reports about a “gag” order on the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Now they cannot even comment,” Archambault said. “This is all what is coming.”