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Protesters Celebrate As Army Halts Dakota Access Pipeline Work

TodayNewsReview / General / Business / Protesters Celebrate As Army Halts Dakota Access Pipeline Work 249 Views

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A day that began with prayers ended with victory dances Sunday as Native Americans and environmentalists here celebrated the news that President Obama's administration would halt construction of the Dakota Access pipeline.

In the most substantial blow yet to the much-contested pipeline, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied an easement for the pipeline to cross Lake Oahe, a Corps reservoir on the Missouri River in North Dakota. That remained the only contested portion of the 1,172-mile pipeline, which is nearly completed.

Dakota Access did not respond to a request for comment Sunday evening, but a pro-pipeline group called the decision "purely political."

The pipeline was set to cross the river a half-mile from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation border. Tribal members have for months protested the project, worried that a pipeline breach could threaten their drinking water supplies.

"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," Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army's assistant secretary for civil works said in a statement Sunday afternoon. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing."

Darcy said the pipeline should undergo an environmental impact statement — a process that could drag on for months. The decision means construction will likely not be completed during Obama's remaining weeks in office.

President-elect Donald Trump's administration, widely viewed as more friendly to energy interests, could reverse the Corps' decision after he takes office Jan. 20.

The news spread quickly across the snow-covered protest camp in North Dakota, home to an expansive array of teepees, motorhomes and tents. Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault II took the microphone at the camp's central fire after speaking with Army officials.

"I'm telling you, this is true," he said. "You know how rumors spread."

Geraldine Agard, a 63-year-old member of the Standing Rock Sioux, gave credit to the prayers of those filling the camp for Sunday's decision. Earlier in the day, campers joined arms in creating what they said was the world's largest prayer circle.

"I'm so thrilled I'm here today," she said. "I'm still in shock."

Yet even as men and women began drumming and dancing around the fire, many Native Americans were unconvinced that Sunday's news was the end.

"It's not over. It's never over," said a Standing Rock member who gave his name as Ghost. "They say one thing and do another."

Craig Stevens, spokesman for the pro-pipeline Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, said the decision was a rejection of the entire regulatory and judicial system, as well as a repudiation of the Corps' previous decisions to green-light the project.

"With President-elect Trump set to take office in a 47 days," he said in a statement, "we are hopeful that this is not the final word on the Dakota Access pipeline."

www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/12/04/standing-rock-tribe-says-army-halt-dakota-access-pipeline/94966882/

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