CANNON BALL”•The US Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday nixed plans for a controversial oil pipeline crossing in North Dakota, a major victory for Native Americans and environmentalists who had staged months of protests.
The pipeline had been set to cross under the Missouri River and man-made Lake Oahe, which are drinking water sources for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
“It’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the US Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement.
“The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”
The Standing Rock Sioux objected to building the 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometer) pipeline underneath the river and lake because of fears of possible leaks. The tribe also said the route would cross through areas with sacred historic artifacts.
The conflict between the tribe and pipeline operators Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners galvanized North American native tribes and supporters, who have camped in the thousands near the construction site for months in an effort to block it.
Some 2,000 US military veterans joined the protest this week in a symbolically important move before a deadline for demonstrators to vacate the area on Monday.
“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing,” Standing Rock Sioux chairman Dave Archambault said in a statement.
“We are not opposed to energy independence, economic development, or national security concerns but we must ensure that these decisions are made with the considerations of our indigenous peoples.”
Pipeline operator Energy Transfer Partners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
However, a group representing the pipeline operators, the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, condemned the decision, blaming it on President Barack Obama.
“This purely political decision flies in the face of common sense and the rule of law,” it said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that the president would, again, use executive fiat in an attempt to enhance his legacy among the extreme left.”