Police supporting Calgary-based Enbridge Inc. and its partners in the Dakota Access Pipeline turned water cannons on the line’s opponents in freezing weather over the weekend, as the companies sought a judge’s permission to ignore the Obama administration and continue building the line under the Missouri River without a legally required federal easement, various news outlets reported.
“Police fired tear gas and water at hundreds of protesters in the freezing North Dakota weather late Sunday and early Monday, in the latest violent clash over a pipeline project running through the state,” Reuters reports, after “an estimated 400 protesters attempted to force their way past police in what the Morton County Sheriff’s Department described as an ‘ongoing riot.’”
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Accounts from Indigenous news sources told a more graphic tale that included the use of rubber bullets. As Indigenous Peoples reported the clash, “water protectors attempted to clear Highway 1806 of burned-out military vehicles and wound up under an all-out assault by heavily militarized police, who used tear gas, mace, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and water cannons to clear them from a bridge. A statement released by the head medic of the Oceti Sakowin camp shortly before midnight said 167 people, including three Elders, had suffered injuries, and that seven people had to be hospitalized. Medics on scene confirmed a 13-year-old girl had been shot in the face, [but not] whether the shot was live ammunition or a rubber bullet.”
Meanwhile, Fox News reports that Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners (in which Enbridge holds nearly a 40% share) and a subsidiary “asked the court on Tuesday to let them lay pipe under a Missouri River reservoir, a plan the Standing Rock Sioux tribe says threatens its drinking water and cultural sites.”
In a statement, the company blamed the Obama administration for “political interference” in the pipeline review process. On Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declined to issue the necessary easement, saying it needed more time to determine if the line could be rerouted to resolve the Sioux’s concerns.
The US$3.8-billion pipeline has been the focus of stubborn resistance in North Dakota and of demonstrations this week from California to Vermont. According to documents the company filed in court, delays resulting from the protests have so far cost it nearly $100 million.
And those costs could soon rise. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and Sightline Institute released a report noting that Energy Transfer Partners could face significant penalties if the pipeline is not completed by January 1, 2017.
“Energy Transfer Partners has conceded in court proceedings that it has a contractual obligation to complete the project by January 1, 2017,” the two organizations write. “If it misses this deadline, companies that have committed long-term to ship oil through the pipeline at 2014 prices have the right to rescind those commitments—and may well exercise that right.”
“ETP will most likely miss this deadline,” the two institutes conclude, since the company has said it would take 90 to 120 days after it receives the suspended easement—or permission to proceed without it—to complete the pipeline.
Meanwhile, the project lost one of its largest international backers, when Norway’s largest bank “announced that it has sold its assets in the Dakota Access pipeline.” KFYR TV reports, citing Greenpeace. “The news follows the delivery of 120,000 signatures gathered by SumOfUs.org to DNB by Greenpeace Norway and others urging the bank and other financial institutions to pull finances for the project.”