Obama says U.S. mulling alternate routes
for North Dakota pipeline
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[November 03, 2016]
By Valerie Volcovici
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack
Obama said the U.S. government is examining ways to reroute an oil
pipeline in North Dakota as it addresses concerns raised by Native
American tribes protesting against its construction.
Obama's comments late on Tuesday to online news site Now This were his
first to directly address the escalating clashes between local
authorities and protesters over Energy Transfer Partners' $3.8 billion
Dakota Access pipeline project.
"My view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of
Native Americans. And I think that right now the Army Corps is examining
whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline," Obama said in the
The U.S. Department of Justice did not comment on Obama's statement
regarding rerouting the line, citing pending litigation involving the
tribes and an ongoing review of permitting by the U.S. Army Corps of
"Ultimately, this is a determination the Army must make based on its own
review, and we donít yet know what that decision will be," a Justice
Department spokesman said.
On Wednesday, protesters on the banks of the Cantapeta Creek confronted
law enforcement, as they attempted to build a wooden pedestrian bridge
across the creek to gain access to the Cannon Ball Ranch, private land
owned by ETP, according to a statement from Morton County officials.
The U.S. Justice and Interior Departments along with the Army Corps of
Engineers halted construction on part of the pipeline in September due
to protests by Native American tribes who contend the pipeline would
disturb sacred land and pollute waterways supplying nearby homes.
The affected area includes land under Lake Oahe, a large and culturally
important reservoir on the Missouri River where the line was supposed to
cross. The Army Corps of Engineers confirmed Wednesday that it let law
enforcement go into this land to prevent further campsites from being
Construction is continuing on sections of the pipeline away from the
Missouri River, according to one of the owners of the pipeline and also
to U.S. refiner Phillips 66.
The 1,172-mile (1,885-km) pipeline, being built by a group of companies
led by Energy Transfer Partners, would offer the fastest and most direct
route to bring Bakken shale oil from North Dakota to U.S. Gulf Coast
North Dakota officials are girding for a long fight. The state's
emergency commission on Tuesday approved another $4 million loan to
support law enforcement during the protests.
David Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, in a
Wednesday statement lauded Obama's comments and called on the
administration and the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a stop-work
order on the pipeline on federal land. He also called for a full
environmental impact study.
"The injustices done to Native people in North Dakota and throughout the
country must be addressed. We believe President Obama and his
Administration will do the right thing," he said.
[to top of second column]
A person pours a pepper spray antidote into a protester's eyes
during a protest against the building of a pipeline on the Standing
Rock Indian Reservation near Cannonball, North Dakota.
LETTING THE SITUATION PLAY OUT
Obama said government agencies will let the situation "play out for
several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved
in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of
Morton County Commission Chairman Cody Schulz, in response to
Obamaís statement, said that letting the situation play out "affords
the opportunity to the out-of-state militant faction of this protest
to keep escalating their violent activities."
The Now This video, however, suggests that Obama was talking about
the review process, not the protests. The president later in the
interview says he wants to make sure that both protesters and law
enforcement are "refraining from situations that might result in
people being hurt."
The fight against the pipeline has drawn international attention and
growing celebrity support amid confrontations between riot police
and protesters. More than 140 people were arrested when a protest
was broken up by law enforcement nearly a week ago.
Some have said an alternative pipeline route could be a way to get
over the impasse. North Dakota gubernatorial candidate Marvin
Nelson, a Democratic state representative, said in an interview with
Reuters last week that moving the route 10 miles (16 km) north could
make a difference.
"It would take some time to do that, but it seems to me to be a much
safer route and it wouldn't need to cross culturally sensitive
land," he said.
Environmental group 350.org urged Obama to reject the federal permit
for the entire project due to the risk to water supplies and the
"President Obama breaking the silence on Dakota Access is a
testament to the powerful resistance of Indigenous leaders, but he
shouldn't sit back while people are facing violent repression from
militarized law enforcement on the ground," said Sara Shor, a
campaign manager for 350.org.
(Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston, Julia Harte in
Washington and Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Marguerita
Choy and Matthew Lewis)
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