Smells like…VICTORY.

The United States Department of Justice has issued a statement on the protests at Standing Rock.

Joint Statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior issued the following statement regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

“We appreciate the District Court’s opinion on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act. However, important issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other tribal nations and their members regarding the Dakota Access pipeline specifically, and pipeline-related decision-making generally, remain. Therefore, the Department of the Army, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior will take the following steps.

The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution. In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.

“Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects. Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions: (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals.

“Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely. We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence. Of course, anyone who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state, or local authorities. The Departments of Justice and the Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local, and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protest, and maintain public safety.

“In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites. It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.”


  1. joel says

    Mixed feelings about this:
    1) If the Sioux don’t want a pipeline on their land, then there shouldn’t be a pipeline on their land. If tribal sovereignty means anything, it should at least mean that.
    2) But the pipeline has to run somewhere. If oil doesn’t move by pipeline then it will move by rail, which is worse.
    3) There is a BNSF rail already running across the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
    * facepalm *

  2. says

    this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects

    That’s big.

  3. says

    If oil doesn’t move by pipeline then it will move by rail, which is worse

    The thing is that the rail easement battles have already been fought. So they’re not cutting railway grades through anyone’s cemetary. But more importantly, the railway grades don’t run under the water.

    We should all be mildly terrified by this:

  4. says

    The pipeline was not going to run through their reservation — it was going to run near the reservation, and through their water source.

  5. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Even more impressive is the Army apparently respecting the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

    Let’s hope it’s not just a temporary stay.

  6. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Transporting the crude by rail results in more over all spills, but the pipeline spills are a bigger eco problem due to less oil contamination.

    Many blogs, this one included, have pointed out that oil train disasters are on the rise. In 2014, oil trains in the U.S. spilled more often than any other recorded year. These accidents have happened as crude-by-rail shipments are soaring, increasing 40-fold since 2008. And compared to pipelines, rail incidents are occurring more frequently — according to U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) data, rail incidents outnumbered pipelines two to one over the period of 2004 to 2012.
    A lot of people have used this data to argue that transporting oil via pipelines is safer than rail. And that’s true, if your idea of safety is defined by the frequency of accidents, regardless of how large the accidents are. If, however, you think massive releases of oil into the environment pose a greater risk to human health, than pipelines are the greater evil.
    According to the same PHMSA dataset, compiled and analysed by the International Energy Agency, U.S. pipelines spilled three times as much crude oil as trains over that eight-year period, even though incidents happened much less frequently. And that eight-year period was dominated by large pipeline spill events, including one that saw 800,000 gallons of Canadian tar sands crude spill in and around the Kalamazoo River, and another 63,000 gallon pipeline spill into the Yellowstone River.

    The Kalamazoo river spill happened near where I grew up in Battle Creek, MI. The Kalamazoo river flows into Lake Michigan, the drinking water for almost every city on the lake including Chicago, Milwaukee, and where I now live between the two.
    I’ll take the more frequent, but smaller spills of rail.

  7. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dang, the first sentence should be more, not less oil contamination. Mea culpa.

  8. =8)-DX says

    I know I’m just in a small country, but we have Russian oil and pipelines and I haven’t really heard of any major spill here. Are the distances involved really such a huge problem? Or are EU pipelines built to so much better standards?

  9. numerobis says

    joel@1: I disagree strongly. The oil *must not* run through pipelines. We need to stop burning this stuff, is what needs to happen. We can transport it by rail in the meantime, but putting in a pipeline is effectively licking us in to a whole lot more production.

  10. says

    Forgive the horrible analogy, but… one battle has been won, yes, but the war is still being fought (again… apologies).

    And I don’t just mean this particular decision being made permanent, although yeah, that fight needs to be won. This needs to happen with all pipelines, and we need to get ourselves off oil.

    @=8)-DX Maybe the standards where you live are better, or maybe it’s just a function of the distance traveled… but oil pipes in North American (not just the US) have such a bad habit of leaking that one could be forgiven for assuming that the pipes are purposely made to leak (even though that’s probably not the case; no one tries to do better, that’s for sure).

  11. blf says

    Congratulations! Well done.

    Just eyeballing the list of oil spills at Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge (which, however, is not just pipelines), “Europe” does seem to be dramatically underrepresented. I have no idea how complete that list is (it seems rather short), or — if the effect is real — why. (There is also a pipeline accident list, and it — again, eyeballing — shows the same effect.)

    One thing does occur to me. Without checking (so this is largely speculation), a fair number of the European pipelines originate in, and transverse (for considerable distances) non-EU terrority (Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, et al.), few-to-perhaps-none of which strikes me as a location where accidents / spills are too likely to be reported (publicly, and perhaps also even to officialdom). So I wonder how much / many “cover-ups” there have been?

    (I would assume NGOs like Greenpeace would have some, and possibly better, data; I have not checked. Also, this is just a count of spills, and does not consider amount spilled, spills(or amount spilled) per kilometre(or flow (volume)), and so on…)

  12. unclefrogy says

    @=8)-DX I would add that we have been using many of these pipe lines very close to the end of their operational life some maybe even past it. Inspection and maintenance are not carried out in an effective manner and the big spills seldom happen in new pipe lines.
    I wonder if this will get the election campaigns back to issues?
    uncle frogy

  13. blf says

    A follow-up on the (apparent) lack of “European” pipeline spills: Yet another Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge article gives a hint as to what is perhaps really going on:

    The best data, in 2014, gives a total of slightly less than 3.5 million km of pipeline in 120 countries of the world. The United States had 65%, Russia had 8%, and Canada had 3%, thus 75% of all pipeline was in three countries.

    It’s not entirely clear from the quoted article whether those percentage figures are percentage of total kilometres (distance) or number of pipelines, but even with that quibble, it’s clear: There is not that much “pipeline” in the EU. Much of it is elsewhere, including Russia, so the “cover-up” speculation in @12 seems germane.

    There are some industry reports (all the ones I’ve noticed seem to be ten or more years old, and either paywalled or otherwise obnoxious to obtain). The visible parts of the abstracts / summaries generally seem to say that the frequency of spills has been decreasing, apparently due to evolving maintenance practices. I have no idea how any of that compares with the US & Canada, where most of the previously-listed spills occur.

  14. says

    Another factor is the infrastructure problem in the US. Our bridges are falling apart, what makes anyone think we’ll maintain pipes out in the middle of nowhere?

  15. blf says

    Ah, but (oil & gas) pipelines are mostly owned by companies / consortiums, who have — or so say loonytarians — every reason (spelled “profit”) to maintain, fix, and improve pipelines. Every Oildrop is Sacred!

    Bridges, roads, potable water, nah, not so much.

    (My suspicion is the cost of repairs, minimally-required clean-up, and fines is so low that it’s cheaper to tolerate “low”-flow leaks than deal with the backlog of sensible maintenance. And that the presumed backlog exists because routine maintenance was deferred or canceled as a “cost-saving measure” back when the pipes were new since, as others have noted, newly-built pipes don’t leak as much. Or, to put it simply: Short-termism (then), Cheaper to continue as-is (now).)

  16. says

    what makes anyone think we’ll maintain pipes out in the middle of nowhere?

    It’s easy, especially when the pipeline is on the bottom of Lake Superior. You just ignore it until it ruptures and say “wow! who coulda expected THAT!?!?!!?” Just like the levees in New Orleans.

  17. says

    PZM (#15) –

    It doesn’t even require aging infrastructure when failures happen due to cost cutting, no-bid contracts and substandard work and then go without punishment (e.g. Boston’s “Big Dig”, the BP oil rig spill). Just because there are accountants doesn’t mean there’s accountability.

  18. numerobis says

    In Europe, a lot more of both the supply and demand are near the ocean. So they can use boats. Which spill often enough, but it’s not pipeline spills.

    They also use much less petroleum per capita.

  19. rq says

    2) But the pipeline has to run somewhere.

    Well, the thing is, the pipeline has an alternate route – that would run close by the community of Bismarck, predominantly white. And yet the company insists that the pipeline must run where it would potentially wreak havoc on Indian water sources. Mysterious…

    If oil doesn’t move by pipeline then it will move by rail, which is worse.

    Citation, please.

  20. anbheal says

    OK, first off, the pipeline doesn’t HAVE to run anywhere. It’s a money grab by a Texas-owned business, that wouldn’t have a chance of doing it unless three ALEC governors and Libertarian-run state-houses wanted to prove a point: Fuck You, Liberals! We’ll take land by eminent domain and violate treaties, because we can. We just like doing it, in principle.

    Secondly, if indeed there are more train spills lately, it has nothing to do with oil being transported. It means that our railroad infrastructure is in need of an upgrade. Oil does NOT need to run across rivers and lakes in Texas billionaire pipelines. And if more oil-filled trucks are overturning, it means that we need to beef up the Teamsters collective bargaining, because the only possible reason is that drivers are being paid less and working longer hours and needing to drive too fast to make deadlines. But statistics aside, the “oooooh, be scared of trucks and trains” meme has been a standard “we want more profit for our shareholders” tactic of pipeline companies for forty years.

    ‘Third, this is a small victory, yes, but it is also a standard stalling technique. Bakken was stupid, and they thought they could get away with beginning the bulldozing before a judge could hear the injunction proposal. In an era of social media. Like Mitt Romney thought he could dismiss the 47 percent of poor and working class Americans in a big speech and nobody would notice. So the protests went viral, and there was outrage, and South Dakota’s governor was caught being an asshole, and once the national spotlight shone brightly, the powers-that-be said “okay, we’ll make a show of delaying things”. The protesters will go home, Assange will dump some damaging stuff against Hillary, and the news cycle will move along. Then Bakken will start digging again. I point you toward Occupy Wall Street as a perfect example of how grass roots protests collapse, and the status quo retains its status quo.

    Finally, social activism typically gets nowhere unless combined with political activism. We need to show up and vote at the local level! The Civil Rights acts would not have been passed under Goldwater or Nixon. Roe v. Wade would have been decided differently under the Roberts court. And Wisconsin and Kansas would not have happened if Democrats had turned up at the polls for mid-terms. All gerrymandering aside, Senators and Governors are chosen by popular vote….so even if your farm districts can outweigh the urban popular vote at the House level, the only reason Brownback and Walker and Branstad can do such awful things is because more votes were cast for them. When everyone votes, Democrats always win. Period. The way to stop the Bakken is to vote Democrat, not to have Ashton Kutcher get arrested and appear on TV saying he admires the Sioux.

  21. numerobis says

    anbheal: trucks cannot be made safe. Trucks have to take windy roads and negotiate 90-degree turns, with a few tonnes of fuel sloshing around in the back — and worse they have to deal with a whole bunch of idiots like me driving around them.

    Per tonne-mile of petroleum product shipment, trucks spill as much as pipelines do, and they kill as many people as trains do. For the shipper, they are more expensive than rail, which is more expensive than pipe — and they’re running over public roads, so they’re even more expensive than the sticker price indicates. They’re the worst.

    There’s no safe way to carry petroleum around. The only winning move is not to play.

  22. DanDare says

    There’s no safe way to carry petroleum around. The only winning move is not to play.

    Would. .you. .prefer. .A. .nice. .game. .of..chess?