Dakota Access pipeline moves closer to completion -lawmakers

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By Valerie Volcovici | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will
grant the final approval needed to finish the Dakota Access
Pipeline project, U.S. Senator John Hoeven and Congressman Kevin
Cramer of North Dakota said on Tuesday.

However, opponents of the $3.8 billion project, including
the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is adjacent to
the route, claimed that Hoeven and Cramer were jumping the gun
and that an environmental study underway must be completed
before the permit was granted.

For months, climate activists and the Standing Rock Sioux
tribe have been protesting against the completion of the line
under Lake Oahe, a reservoir that is part of the Missouri River.
The one-mile stretch of the 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line is the
only incomplete section in North Dakota.

The project would run from the western part of the state to
Patoka, Illinois, and connect to another line to move crude to
the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Hoeven said Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer had
told him and Vice President Mike Pence of the move. “This will
enable the company to complete the project, which can and will
be built with the necessary safety features to protect the
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream,” Hoeven, a
Republican, said in a statement.

Representatives for the Army Corps of Engineers could not be
reached immediately for comment late on Tuesday. The Department
of Justice declined to comment.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week
allowing Energy Transfer Partners LP’s Dakota Access
Pipeline to go forward, after months of protests from Native
American groups and climate activists pushed the administration
of President Barack Obama to ask for an additional environmental
review of the controversial project.

The approval would mark a bitter defeat for Native American
tribes and climate activists, who successfully blocked the
project earlier and vowed to fight the decision through legal
action.

On Tuesday evening, the Standing Rock tribe said the Army
could not circumvent a scheduled environmental impact study that
was ordered by the outgoing Obama administration in January. “The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the
EIS,” they said in a statement.

The tribe said it would take legal action against the U.S.
Army’s reported decision to grant the final easement.

“JUMPED THE GUN”

Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice lawyer representing the
tribe, told Reuters that Hoeven and Cramer “jumped the gun” by
saying the easement would be granted and that the easement was
not yet issued.

Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environment Network,
which has been a vocal opponent of the pipeline, said on Twitter
that lawmakers were “trying to incite violence” by saying the
easement was granted before it was official.

There have been numerous clashes between law enforcement and
protesters over the past several months, some of which have
turned violent. More than 600 arrests have been made.

Heavy earth-moving equipment had been moved to the protest
camp in recent days to remove abandoned tipis and cars, with the camp to be cleared out before expected flooding in March.

There were more than 10,000 people at the camp at one point,
including Native Americans, climate activists and veterans.
Several hundred remain.

A spokesman for Hoeven, Don Canton, said it would probably
be a “matter of days rather than weeks” for the easement to be
issued.

Oil producers in North Dakota are expected to benefit from a
quicker route for crude oil to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp said the
timeline for construction was still unknown but said she hoped
Trump would provide additional law enforcement resources and
funding to ensure the safe start of pipeline construction.

“We also know that with tensions high, our families,
workers, and tribal communities deserve the protective resources
they need to stay safe,” Heitkamp said.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Eric Beech in Washington,
Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, David Gaffen in New York and
Ernest Scheyder in Houston)



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