If someone had asked me a two weeks ago what I thought the chances were of the Obama administration providing a crucial block to the Dakota Access Pipeline project, I would’ve given them a number close to zero. Indeed, as I wrote in my last column, the Obama administration seemed intent on seeing the project through, probably due to the large amount of money invested in the project.
I was proved wrong to a limited extent last Sunday, when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would not grant a permit to the developers behind DAPL to drill under the Missouri river. It means that the project is unauthorized to continue as planned at the moment, and is a major win for the Native American tribes who protested the pipeline’s construction, as well as those concerned about the environmental effects across the nation.
The ruling demonstrates the power of the people when organized and determined. As the company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, complained in response to the ruling, the decision was a “purely political action.” The Corps wouldn’t have budged if it weren’t for the political pressure exerted on them by concerned citizens around the country, but particularly not if it weren’t for the courageous example of the Native American protesters who risked and suffered bodily injury from militarized police forces day after day to protect the integrity of their land.
In my last column, I concluded that profit mattered more than people to the government figures who allowed the pipeline to continue. But this latest development shows that while that may be the case, even powerful government figures and the profitable companies behind them are no match for an organized political force of people.
While the ruling is certainly a crucial victory for those of us who oppose the pipeline, the work is far from over.
Two weeks ago, President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team announced his official support of the pipeline project, a fact it would’ve been easy to deduce given Trump owns a stake in Energy Transfer Partners. With a sympathetic president, the battle is far from lost for ETP. Indeed, they wasted no time in filing in federal court, requesting a ruling that would allow them to immediately circumvent the Corps and drill under the Missouri immediately.
Even if the federal judge rejects their appeal, Trump’s term, which begins next month, could drastically change the landscape of the battle.
Trump’s Native American Affairs Coalition, a group of advisors formed in October as part of Trump’s election effort, intend to privatize tribal land, opening it up for less-regulated development, particularly for the oil industry, reports Reuters. If the Trump administration has its way, develop-ments like DAPL could become much easier for oil companies.
While we celebrate the ruling that halts the DAPL project in the immediate present, we must stay vigilant and clear-eyed, the war is not yet won.