Despite a federal court decision issued on October 9th allowing the continued construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the massive infrastructure project remains on hold today after the Obama administration caved to the demands of protesters and shut down access to federal lands. According to a letter written by a coalition of industry groups impacted by the construction halt and obtained by the Washington Examiner, the Obama administration’s refusal to allow construction workers access to federal land is a blatant abuse of power that “ignores the rule of law.”
“We write to express our deep concerns over recent actions that took place in North Dakota to effectively ignore the rule of law in an attempt to halt infrastructure development,” the letter reads, reminding Lynch that “one of our nation’s founding fathers, John Adams, once wrote that the United States is a ‘government of laws, and not of men.’”
“This North Dakota project has complied with the procedures laid out in law, engaged in more than two years of federal review and has received the necessary federal approvals,” the letter added. “Additionally, the project has been fully approved by all four states it traverses.”
“Throughout this entire process, there are multiple opportunities for stakeholder engagement, whether through public fora or through written submittal,” the letter states. “If stakeholders disagree with the government’s final decision, there is a judicial process in place to address those concerns.”
“Despite the federal judge’s opinion, your agencies then jointly denied access to federal property necessary to complete the pipeline until the administration ‘can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions’ under various federal laws,” the groups said. “The previous decisions now being ‘reconsidered’ were properly considered and made through a fair and thorough process on which the company and others are entitled to rely.”
“In our ‘nation of laws,’ when an established legal process is complete, it is just that — complete” the letter added. “When your agencies upend or modify the results of a full and fair regulatory process for an infrastructure project, these actions do not merely impact a single company. The industries that manufacture and develop the infrastructure, the labor that builds it, and the American consumers that depend on it all suffer.”
Of course, the Dakota Access Pipeline has gained national attention over the past couple of months as protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota have grown in size and become increasingly violent. According to reports from Anti Media, protesters recently trespassed on to construction sites and destroyed nearly $2mm worth of equipment.
For the second time in recent months, someone or some group has set fire to construction equipment at the Dakota Access Pipeline site in Reasnor, Iowa. The incident, which damaged an estimated $2 million in equipment, is being treated as arson. It’s unclear who set the fire, and there are currently no suspects identified.
Despite the lack of evidence or suspects, Reasnor Assistant Fire Chief Don Steenhoek laid the blame on Dakota Access Pipeline protesters. “[I]t’s pretty senseless,” Steenhoek told local news outlet KCCI. “They’re not getting back at the pipeline. They’re just hurting the guys trying to make a living and put it in.”
Of course, the protests also gained in strength with a little help from Hollywood, including Bernie-supporter, Susan Sarandon.
For those that haven’t followed the situation, the Dakota Access Pipeline is an 1,100 mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline intended to connect oil producers in the Bakken area of North Dakota to refining capacity and other transportation infrastructure in Patoka, Illinois. The pipeline will initially carry 470,000 barrels of oil per day with capacity as high as 570,000 barrels (roughly 50% of daily Bakken production). The pipeline is expected to cost $3.8 billion and was expected to be completed by the end of 2016 until recent protests halted construction.
Although the pipeline primarily runs along private land, federal approval was required for crossings at various bodies of water, like the Missouri River. A lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Standing Rock tribe, alleged that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct the proper “cultural” reviews before approving construction. However, when that appeal was overturned on October 9th the Obama administration stepped in to shut down construction by denying workers access to federal land.
So, with several billion dollars already spent to construct various portions of the pipeline, the fate of the project, like many other things, will likely be determined by the American electorate on November 8th.