When the Army Corps of Engineers announced this weekend that it would not, for the moment, allow the hotly contested Dakota Access oil pipeline to continue along its current route, the news was largely met with enthusiastic (albeit cautious) celebration.
Largely, but not entirely.
Late Sunday evening, Energy Transfer Partners—the company behind the pipeline’s construction—issued a blistering press release which left little ambiguity toward its position on this latest development. Not surprisingly, the company is extremely pissed.
In announcing the decision to deny ETP the necessary easement to continue construction of the pipeline under Lake Oahe—just half a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux’s tribal lands—an Army Corps of Engineers representative urged patience and flexibility.
“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Army Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a release. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
Patience, however, does not seem to be of much interest to Energy Transfer Partners, who wrote:
In spite of consistently stating at every turn that the permit for the crossing of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe granted in July 2016, comported with all legal requirements, including the use of an environmental assessment, rather than an environmental impact statement, the Army Corps now seeks to engage in additional review and analysis of alternative locations for the pipeline.
The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.
If anything, however, it’s Energy Transfer who is kowtowing to a “narrow and extreme political constituency”–its corporate shareholders. Were it not for the grassroots protests by thousands of activists at Standing Rock, and in cities around the country, the pipeline’s progress would have continued just as ETP desired—directly at odds with the will of a robustly diverse, and vocal populace.
Throughout the months of protests against the pipeline’s current construction route—which opponents fear puts Native tribal land and water at risk of environmental contamination—police and private security forces have repeatedly targeted activists with an array of heavy-handed crowd control methods and equipment, including the use of water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures. And while ETP may accuse the administration of “abandoning the rule of law,” it’s the police themselves—acting largely on the behalf of the energy company—who face a lawsuit from protesters alleging the use of excessive force.
Nevertheless, whether their statement is simply corporate bluster meant to save face, or indicative of some larger legal machinations, Energy Transfer Partners is not backing down after this latest setback.
“As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion,” the company wrote, “and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”
While it remains to be seen whether Energy Transfer’s confidence is warranted or not, the company is almost certainly eager to see what happens with the project under the incoming Trump administration. The President-elect has gone on the record as being strongly in favor of seeing the Dakota Access Pipeline completed as planned.