The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its decision to grant the final permit to the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline on Wednesday. However, the American Indian tribe that has been protesting for months has promised to keep fighting.
The $3.8 billion project, which has been stalled due to intense protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental activists, was granted an easement by the Army to finish construction of the controversial pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.
The Army declared on Tuesday that it will allow the four-state pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota, which is the final stage of construction, much to the chagrin of Standing Rock Sioux, which has promised to fight a legal battle against the decision.
The pipeline’s developer, Dakota Access, which is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, will now be entitled to construct the pipeline through government land at the Lake Oahe Dam and Reservoir in North Dakota. The tribe has argued that constructing the pipeline under Lake Oahe would not only affect the quality of drinking water in the area, but would also affect the water supply for the 17 million people living downstream.
The 1,200-mile long pipeline would carry North Dakota oil through the two Dakotas and the Hawkeye State to a shipping point in Illinois. While the pipeline was expected to be operational by the end of 2016, the construction has been delayed with the Native Indians opposing the pipeline near their home. The natives said that the Obama administration had determined other sites for the pipeline, and that they Army must consider those sites.
The Army’s decision comes after President Donald Trump signed executive actions on January 24 asking the Corps to advance approval of this pipeline and others, which is in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s efforts aimed to blocking construction.
The order urged “the acting secretary of the Army to expeditiously review requests for approvals to construct and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline in compliance with the law.”
The Army said that its decision was made on the basis of “a sufficient amount of information already available which supported approval to grant the easement request.”
Robert Speer, the Acting Secretary of the Army, termed the easement as “final steps” in complying with the President’s executive action.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was, however, not very pleased with the latest development in the controversial issue. It promised a legal fight to thwart the project. The Tribe intends to base its argument on the premise that the environmental impact statement process was wrongfully terminated.
“Trump’s reversal of (Obama’s) decision continues a historic pattern of broken promises to Indian tribes and a violation of treaty rights,” said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who will be fighting the case for the tribe. Confident that this decision will be reversed in the court, Hasselman added, “Trump and his administration will be held accountable in court.”
The pipeline also has its fair share of supporters who have claimed that the project would be an “economic boon”. The pipeline, which would move approximately 47,000 barrels of crude oil a day, is estimated to earn revenue of $156 million for the state and local governments through sales and income taxes, besides creating 8,000 to 12,000 jobs in the construction industry.