On Friday the Morton County Sheriff's Department arrested 40 Water Protectors at the Standing Rock land defense action in North Dakota as Energy Transfer Partners, whose CEO Kelcy Warren was a major supporter of Donald Trump's election campaign, pledged to continue construction of the USD$3.7 billion pipeline project despite lacking the proper permits.
The arrests came on the same day as the Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over construction projects on lands claimed by the U.S. government, said it would release its decision on the future of the project early next week. Army Corps representatives also issued a statement saying, "any work must adhere to federal regulations,” and “failure to comply can bring legal action. Construction without proper permits or easements in place can result in fines and legal action."
Over 400 people have been violently arrested since the land and water defense action, led by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Water Protectors and supported by thousands of Indigenous activists from across the Americas, began last April.
Sources told Politico on Friday that President Obama is expected to formally approve the pipeline on Standing Rock Sioux land despite earlier suggesting that the project could be re-routed due to concerns about water contamination and the destruction of sacred sites. A recent report said that the original environmental assessment of the project was “seriously deficient” and failed to properly assess the risks posed by pipeline leaks.
Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, David Archambault, said in a statement, “the only possible path forward for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is a decision that denies the easement or subjects it to a full environmental impact statement and tribal consultation.” He continued, “the only urgency here arises from DAPL’s reckless decision to build to either side of the Missouri River without a permit."
In the lead up to Tuesday´s national day of action in solidarity with Standing Rock, Chairman Archambault said, “We thank all of the people around the world that have joined us in urging President Obama to do the right thing.” He added, “we ask everyone to join us in peaceful and prayerful opposition as we await this important decision.”
The pipeline project was originally slated to be built close to Bismarck, North Dakota, but was re-routed to cross Standing Rock Sioux territory after the largely white residents of Bismarck raised concerns about potential spills.
While some are hopeful that President Obama will choose to respect Indigenous land and treaty rights by rerouting the pipeline, others are calling on Obama to cancel the project entirely given the grave risks the project poses to the climate.