Military veterans march in support of protesters at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on December 5.
The reason so many people rose up to join the Dakota Access Pipeline protest is that many in the Standing Rock tribe consider the pipeline and its intended crossing of the Missouri River to constitute a threat to the region’s clean water and to ancient burial grounds.
The pipeline project was exempted from a review under the US Clean Water Act, but now the US Army Corps of Engineers has been asked to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment – and the decision seems entirely justified in the light of this evidence:
Activists who have demonstrated for months against the Dakota Access Pipeline may have some fuel to justify their protests.
A spill has occurred 150 miles from Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where protesters have fought construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
State officials estimate 4,200 barrels of crude oil, or 176,000 gallons, have leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline in Billings County.
Of that amount, 130,000 gallons of oil has flowed into Ash Coulee Creek, while the rest leaked onto a hillside, said Bill Suess, spill investigation program manager at the North Dakota Department of Health. Built in the 1980s, the pipeline is 6 inches in diameter and transports about 1,000 barrels of oil daily, he said. The leak happened December 5.
Activists celebrate at Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 [Image: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images].
All seems well after the US Army Corps of Engineers refused to grant a permit for pipeline engineers to drill under the Missouri River at Standing Rock – as this Guardian article suggests.
The news that the US federal government has refused to issue the permit needed to run a pipeline under the Missouri river means many things – including that indigenous activists have won a smashing victory, one that shows what nonviolent unity can accomplish.
But are matters as secure as they seem? Look at this, from Twitter:
On the bright side, The Graun offers this:
Trump, of course, can try and figure out a way to approve the pipeline right away, though the Obama administration has done its best to make that difficult. (That’s why, instead of an outright denial, they simply refused to grant the permit, thus allowing for the start of the environmental impact statement process). But if Trump decides to do that, he’s up against people who have captured the imagination of the country. Simply spitting on them to aid his friends in the oil industry would clarify a lot about him from the start, which is one reason he may hesitate.
The army corps will undertake an environmental impact statement and look for alternative routes [Image: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images].
This is a welcome victory for ordinary people against corporate power.
Dare we hope that, after a nightmarish year, the tide is turning and we may hope to see sanity return to world politics?
It’s far too early to suggest that we can hope for more of the same, but this is a hugely encouraging sign.
The struggle at Standing Rock is not over, and it will be important to maintain vigilance against corporate encroachment from now on.
But everybody who travelled to Standing Rock to lend their support, who raised awareness both in the States and internationally, and who kept up the coverage in the social – and mass – media can take heart from this knowledge:
We can make a difference.
The [US] Army Corps of Engineers will not grant the permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri river, the army announced on Sunday, handing a major victory to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe after a months-long campaign against the pipeline.
Assistant secretary for civil works Jo-Ellen Darcy announced the decision on Sunday, with the army saying it was based on “a need to explore alternate routes” for the crossing.
The army corps will undertake an environmental impact statement and look for alternative routes, the tribe said in its own announcement.
While the news is a victory, Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the tribe, cautioned that the decision could be appealed.
The announcement came just one day before the corps’ deadline for thousands of Native American and environmental activists – who call themselves water protectors – to leave the sprawling encampment on the banks of the river. For months, they have protested over their fears that the pipeline would contaminate their water source and destroy sacred sites, and over the weekend hundreds of military veterans arrived at the camps in a show of support for the movement.
As word spread in the main camp, protesters broke out in jubilant celebrations, and with nightfall a few fireworks burst above the tents and campfires.
A protest against the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota, November 15, 2016 [Image: Reuters/Stephanie Keith].
The United Nations has stepped into the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, calling for a halt to construction.
As a citizen of the UK, which the UN has recently condemned over systematic violations of the human rights of people with disabilities, it will be interesting to see how the US authorities react.
Will they respect the advice of the international organisation which is based in New York?
Or will they ignore it and carry on doing whatever they like, no matter who gets hurt – as the Conservative Government in the UK has done?
United Nations experts have called for a halt in construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, arguing it could threaten the health and well-being of Native Americans.
The U.N. experts also condemned local authorities’ violent crackdown on pipeline protesters, accusing them of using unjustified and excessive force in their “increasingly militarized response.”
Maina Kiai, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, released a statement on Tuesday calling on the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners “to pause all construction activity within 20 miles east and west of Lake Oahe.”
A person walks past smoke from a cooking fire at an encampment during a protest against the Dakota Access pipeline on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 9, 2016 [Image: Reuters/Stephanie Keith].
It’s a valid question.
The Native Americans on the Standing Rock reservation may be descended from the land’s original inhabitants, but that seems unlikely to make an impression on Donald Trump – or his supporters.
Already we have heard accounts of incidents in which people belonging to minority groups have been told to “get out of our country” (their country?) by people who seem to believe in white supremacy.
Why should the Native Americans escape the same fate?
And, if Donald Trump demands the completion of the pipeline, despite the arguments against it, won’t he be playing into the hands of the racists?
Won’t he be either endorsing their behaviour or, at the very least, giving them an excuse to justify it?
Think on it, America.
The surprising victory by Native American and environmental groups in September to delay the Dakota Access Pipeline may turn out to be short-lived, after Donald Trump’s unexpected win in the U.S. presidential election.
Trump backs measures to speed energy industry development and upgrade the country’s oil and gas infrastructure. He has not commented specifically on the $3.7 billion Dakota Access line but has said he would seek to revive another controversial pipeline, the Keystone XL line. That project, which would pump oil from Canada through Nebraska, was rejected in 2014 by the Obama administration.
The 1,172-mile (1,885 km) line was planned to run from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region to Illinois, but protests from environmental activists and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota galvanized the Obama administration to delay construction to ensure Native American concerns about the line’s route were properly addressed.
One day after Trump’s victory, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II said the results show “that we as a country have so much work to do.” He did not mention Trump in his statement to Reuters, instead saying President Barack Obama could still halt the pipeline.
“We must strengthen our resolve to protect the water, pray together for understanding, and pour our hearts and minds into the future of all our children,” he said.
It is not clear now whether Dakota Access would be rerouted or piped under the sensitive watershed, which the tribe considers sacred.
Protesters fighting construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline block a highway near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on October 26. Facebook users are “checking in” at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in solidarity [Image: James MacPherson/AP].
Here’s a story that has captured the imaginations of people of good conscience across the world.
One thing is certain – it isn’t over yet.
You might be wondering why it seems like dozens of your Facebook friends are suddenly converging on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota.
[More than] 1.6 million people [have] “checked in” via Facebook at the reservation in an act of solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux tribe members and other supporters who for months have been protesting the construction of an oil pipeline being built by Energy Transfer Partners to transport oil 1,200 miles east, from North Dakota’s Bakken field to a refinery in central Illinois.
The protesters, who include representatives of more than 200 other tribes, identify themselves as “water protectors” and contend that the pipeline would disturb sacred lands and burial grounds and would likely harm the Missouri River, which provides the tribe’s drinking water.
Early Monday, Facebook users began checking in at Standing Rock and reposting a message claiming that the check-ins were needed to help protect protesters in North Dakota from being monitored through the use of geotagging by law enforcement.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Office says the geotagging accusation is “absolutely false.” Leaders from the protest camp told Snopes they were not responsible for the social media plea and doubted its effectiveness against social media monitoring, though they appreciated the act of solidarity.
The protesters want to see construction of the pipeline halted entirely and its route changed. They point to a rising number of pipeline accidents in recent years as evidence that they are right to be concerned about the safety of their water source.
“These pipelines are often seeping or leaking in small places, and we don’t have any way to detect them,” Doug Hayes, a staff attorney at the Sierra Club, told The Huffington Post in September. “These are the types of concerns the tribes have, and they’re, frankly, very well-founded.”
Such concerns were part of the reason why the pipeline’s original route, which passed near Bismarck, the state’s capital, was abandoned.
The tribe and its supporters also believe they were not properly consulted concerning the project’s effect on sacred sites and burial grounds.
The protesters appear to be dedicated to continuing their demonstrations even as the weather gets colder. A tribal leader told the Guardian that the group is preparing for “the last stand.”
The pipeline developers are now awaiting a federal permit to dig under the river, a decision that could come any day now. President Barack Obama said in a Tuesday interview with NowThis that the Army Corps of Engineers is examining whether it can reroute the pipeline to address the concerns of the tribe and its supporters.
As the Seattle Times noted, if the pipeline is not completed and moving oil by Jan. 1, the developer’s contracts with shippers could expire.
Battlefield: Independence Square in Kiev after clashes on February 20. [Image: AFP]
It isn’t often that Vox Political discusses foreign affairs; this would usually involve mentioning that national disaster, William Hague. But we’ll make an exception in the case of Ukraine.
If you don’t know that thinly-disguised Russian soldiers have occupied the Crimea, which is currently Ukrainian, you’d probably have to be living in a hole in the desert.
Russia says this is entirely justified, but the position is not clear-cut.
It seems this crisis started after a pro-Russian Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, decided to abandon plans for co-operation with Europe in favour of allying his country more closely with Russia.
At the time, Ukraine was deeply in debt and facing bankruptcy, with £21 billion needed to get through the current financial year and 2015. The country cannot call on the same financial levers as the UK, meaning this is a serious issue. How fortunate, then, that Russia was on hand to buy $15 billion of Ukrainian debt and reduce the price of Russian gas supplies by around one-third.
Gas. Ukraine produces around a quarter of its own supply and imports the rest from Russia and Asia, through pipelines that Russia controls. These pipelines continue into Europe, providing supplies to Western countries as well.
The alignment with Russia sparked huge popular protests which quickly escalated into violence. Even though Yanukovych gain office through an election that was judged free and fair by observers, it seems clear his pro-Russian policies do not have the support of the people. But Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, and most of its population are Russians.
Then on February 22, Yanukovych did a runner to Russia, from where – surprisingly – he has claimed he is still President of Ukraine. Politicians in Kiev thought differently and have named their own interim president until elections can take place in May. It is this action that sparked rival protests in Crimea, where people appear to support the previous, pro-Russian policies.
Troops, apparently in Russian uniforms, have appeared across the Crimea, besieging Ukrainian forces and effectively taking control. It has been suggested that Russian President Putin sent them in response to a request from Yanukovych, but Putin denies this. Crimea’s parliament has asked to join Russia.
There is also the matter of the Russian naval base on the Crimean Black Sea coast. This seems uncontroversial, though, as Ukraine had agreed to allow Russia to keep it.
To sum up:
It seems that most of Ukraine wants to keep Russia at arms’ length; but it must still find a way to pay back its debts.
It seems that most of Crimea wants to rejoin Russia. This will be tested in a referendum on March 16.
It seems that Western European countries like the UK are desperate to condemn Russia for interfering in Ukraine. Concerns were raised on the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday that the referendum will be rigged, but we have no evidence to suggest that will happen – independent observers have reported that previous exercises of democracy have been free and fair.
It seems hypocritical of us to condemn Russia’s intervention in a place where that country’s citizens are threatened by violence. What did we do when the Falkland Islands were invaded in 1982 – and have we not stood firm against threats to those islands ever since? Nor can we criticise Russia for invading a country on a flimsy pretext – Iraq springs to mind.
So what’s it all about?
It seems most likely that, because most of Western Europe’s supply of Russian gas comes through Ukraine, we are far more concerned about our energy supply than about local democracy in an eastern European country. The UK, along with France and Germany and no doubt many others, wants to ensure that this supply is not interrupted as this could seriously jeopardise our ability to generate power.
… And if that isn’t a powerful reason for this country to invest massively in renewable energy generation, it’s hard to find one. What possible advantage is there in putting ourselves at the mercy of another country – especially one that has been less than friendly to us in the past?
It seems the only reason the UK has for outrage is the possibility of violence. We know that military intervention in the affairs of another country doesn’t work; nobody can parachute in, effect regime change, and leave a stable democracy running smoothly behind them. We should have learned our lessons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Unfortunately, it seems that only a minority are willing to speak up and admit this – headed most visibly by Russia Today presenter Abby Martin, who delivered an impassioned denouncement of Russia’s involvement. “I will not sit here and apologise for or defend military action,” she said.
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