U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Won’t Grant Easement For Dakota Access Oil Pipeline

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CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it won’t grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota.

Corps spokeswoman Moria Kelley said in a news release Sunday that the administration will not allow the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline to be built under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir where construction had been on hold.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said her decision was based on the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline’s crossing.

The Secretary of the Interior says the decision to not grant an easement “ensures there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes.”

Sally Jewell also said in a statement that the decision “underscores that tribal rights … are essential components of the analysis” for the environmental impact statement.

The route has been the subject of months of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others, who have argued the pipeline threatens a water source and cultural sites.

North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer claims that the decision is “a very chilling signal” for the future of infrastructure in the U.S.

Cramer said in a statement that infrastructure will be hard to build “when criminal behavior is rewarded this way,” apparently referring to the large protest encampment on federal land and the clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement.

Cramer also said that “law and order” will be restored when Donald Trump takes office and that he feels bad for the Corps having to do “diligent work … only to have their Commander-in-Chief throw them under the bus.”

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a statement that the Corps’ decision “is a serious mistake,” ”prolongs the serious problems” that law enforcement faces and “prolongs the dangerous situation” of people camping in cold, snowy conditions.

The federal government has ordered people to leave the main encampment, which is on Army Corps of Engineers’ land and is close to the construction site, by Monday.

Demonstrators say they’re prepared to stay, and federal, state and local authorities say they won’t forcibly remove the protesters.

Among those assisting Sioux Tribe members in the protest Sunday were part of a group of veterans from Ohio who left for Cannon Ball the day before, joining the nationwide “Veterans for Standing Rock” organization.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that the Department of Justice will still monitor the protest and is ready to “provide resources” for those who “can play a constructive role in easing tensions.”

Lynch said in a statement that the safety of those in the area, including officers, residents and protesters, “continues to be our foremost concern.”

The Morton County Sheriff’s Office says that it has lifted the blockade on a bridge north of the large protest encampment.

In a statement, it said that it won’t be near the bridge as long as protesters stick to the conditions outlined on Saturday, including only coming to the bridge for predetermined meetings with law enforcement.

The release did not comment on the U.S. Army Corps’ decision.

The large Oceti Sakowin camp is south of the Backwater Bridge, and several hundred people are camped there.

The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, didn’t have immediate comment.