Dan Nanamkin, of the Colville Nez Perce Native American tribe in Nespelem, Wash., right, drums after it was announced Sunday that the Army Corps won’t grant an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline. (David Goldman/Associated Press)
The Army said Sunday that it will not approve an easement necessary for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, marking a monumental victory for the Native American tribes and thousands of others who have flocked in recent months to protest the pipeline.Officials in November had delayed the key decision, saying more discussion was necessary about the proposed crossing, given that it would pass very near the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose leaders have repeatedly expressed fears that a spill could threaten the water supplies of its people.“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army’s assistant secretary for civil works, said in a statement Sunday. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”What started as a small but fierce protest in a remote spot along the Missouri River months ago has evolved into an epic standoff involving hundreds of tribes, various celebrities and activists from around the country. It has involved heated confrontations — police have sometimes employed water canons, pepper spray and rubber bullets — and has carried on through the swelter of summer into the snowy cold of winter.
On Sunday, news of the Army’s decision triggered a wave of celebration and relief among those who have fought to stop the 1,170-mile-long pipeline’s progress.“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 Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement. “With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well.”