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Army Corps denies crucial DAPL easement

Protesters react to the decision to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.


On Dec. 4, the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the construction of a key section of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The decision halts the construction on the 1,172-mile oil pipeline outside of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where thousands of protesters are gathered. The decision, just a day before the evacuation deadline that ordered protesters to leave the encampment, is an apparent victory for tribes and environmentalists, who argued the pipeline would threaten water supplies and damage sacred sites.

In a statement, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called the decision a “thoughtful approach (that) ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts.” The announcement underscores the importance of tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, she said, “as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders.”

Read more of our Dakota Access Pipeline coverage, including the economics behind the pipeline and the history behind the protests.

In a statement, Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army, said the Army Corps of Engineers “will not grant an easement to cross Lake Oahe at the proposed location based on the current record.” Instead, an analysis of the proposed route and alternate routes should be discussed through the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement, she said.

Celebrations erupted at the Oceti Sakowin protestors camp after tribal leaders announced the news Sunday afternoon. Leaders said that the Army Corps would look for alternative reroutes for the pipeline after environmental review. 

“It really hits home for us,” said Vincent Fox, 25, who was at the camp when the news broke. He and his wife, Amy Jackson, had driven in from their home in Fort Yates, North Dakota, on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, to support the protest. As the couple pulled into camp, someone came to their car window to tell them about the Army Corp’s decision. 

Despite the celebratory mood at camp, some protesters were apprehensive about the announcement. “I think it’s just a delay, since all the vets showed up,” said Jason Newberg, the Iowa leader of a contingent of thousands of veterans nationwide who arrived to North Dakota in recent days to support the protesters. “It’s a tactic to slow us down.”  

Tay Wiles is an associate editor for High Country News. She can be reached at [email protected].

Note: This story has been updated with information to reflect the Army Corps of Engineers’ statement, including the decision to deny an easement, pending an analysis and Environmental Impact Statement.