On Wednesday, a large group of dissenters protested the creation of a pipeline outside a Washington D.C. courthouse. The people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from North Dakota as well as celebrities Riley Keough, Susan Sarandon, and Shailene Woodley stood in opposition to the pipeline they claim will defile sacred land and contaminate natural water sources.
Sarandon was quoted as saying, “I’m here as a mother and a grandmother to thank the people of the Standing Rock community for bringing our attention to this horrible thing that is happening to their land, which in turn will endanger all of us.” Sarandon is an Oscar-winning actress.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia was packed inside as legal proceedings for the $3.7 billion venture began. Outside, nearly 100 members of the Native American tribe protested the project altogether. Firms directed by Energy Transfer Partners would complete the construction of the 1,100 mile-long pipeline which would in turn be the first pipe to carry Bakken shale straight to Gulf Coast refineries from North Dakota.
Dakota Access had originally scheduled to begin operations on the pipeline during the fourth quarter of 2016, however, work has stalled since April because of ongoing protests. According to a statement made by a company spokesperson earlier in the week, Dakota Access “temporarily deferred grading activities” as “law enforcement works to contain the unlawful protests.”
Conversely, leaders of the tribe are expressing their own need for the protection of the law. David Archambault II, tribe chairperson, said outside the D.C. courtroom on Wednesday, “In our land, it was never protected, it was just taken and they strategically placed the dams so that tribal lands would get flooded.” Earlier this month, Dakota Access filed restraining orders in North Dakota against Archambault as well as other tribe members.
In response, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has pursued an injunction in Washington to stop the construction of the pipeline. Furthermore, the tribe has implicated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the violation of several environmental and preservation laws for authorizing the construction of the pipeline just north of the tribe’s reservation. As of Wednesday, the Army Corps of Engineers refused to comment.
According to the tribe, the pipeline could lead to oil spills which could then lead to the destruction of culturally important and historic areas. If the pipeline causes any damage to these areas, it will be violating both the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.
Those who support the construction of the pipeline have been quoted in court documents saying that it would offer a more safe and economical way of carrying shale to the Gulf in comparison to rail or road transportation.
District Court Judge James Boasberg said in a hearing on Wednesday that he would announce his verdict on the tribe’s motion for an injunction by September 9. The judge also scheduled a status hearing on September 14.
Presently, all construction efforts associated with the pipeline have been halted. Dakota Access must wait for approval to step foot on federal land. The approval can only be passed down after being permitted by the Army Corps of Engineers first and subsequently accepted by Congress.
By Briana Steptoe.