On Tuesday afternoon, the United States Army Corps of Engineers granted an easement that will allow the Dakota Access Pipeline to go under a portion of the Missouri River known as Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The easement, sought by the Dallas-based builders of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, will allow construction to resume on the nearly completed pipeline, which has been the object of a monthslong protest by members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other activists from around the world.
Last night, protesters gathered in Dallas to voice opposition to the pipeline.
The corps’ decision comes less than two weeks after President Donald Trump issued an executive order ordering the corps to streamline the permitting process for the pipeline, which he called “unfair” and a “tangled-up mess.” Kelcy Warren, ETP’s owner, donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund during Trump’s run for president. Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Energy, is a former member of the company’s board and Trump himself is a former investor.
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In a letter to Congress about the easement, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Paul Cramer said that the president’s order played a role in how quickly permission for the pipeline route was granted, leading the corps to “waive its policy to wait 14 days after Congressional notification before granting an easement.”
The easement, Cramer said, will become effective Wednesday afternoon, allowing ETP, which the corps says does not need a separate construction permit, to begin work on finishing the $3.8 billion pipeline.
Tom Goldtooth, the Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the biggest groups behind the protests, said the granting of the easement so quickly — as of Tuesday, there were still two weeks left in the public comment period for the environmental assessment of the project — goes against Corps of Engineers protocol. Doing so, he said in a statement, will galvanize opposition to the pipeline.
“Expect mass resistance far beyond what Trump has seen so far,” he said.