Indigenous leaders and progressive Democrats are urging the Biden administration to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ignoring a weighty, Indigenous-led petition, declined to do so.
The decision by the Army Corps to permit the Dakota Access pipeline to continue operating without a critically important water permit is further evidence of a pervasive neglect of the voice of the Standing Rock Tribal Nation, writes the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). The decision Friday ran counter to a 400,000-signature-strong petition against the pipeline delivered to Washington, DC, by the Standing Rock Youth Council on April 1.
“The youth will continue on fighting these black snakes for our people and the next seven generations to come,” said Maya Monroe Runnels-Black Fox, co-chair of the Standing Rock Youth Council. “President Joe Biden needs to act now and keep his promise to be a climate president.”
Tasina Sapa Win Smith of the Cheyenne River Grassroots Collective described the federal inaction as “a clear sign that this administration is the exact opposite of the climate leadership narrative they promised to lead during his campaign.”
Addressing the president directly, she added: “Biden, be bold.”
Many observers had predicted the Army Corps would itself “be bold” and shutter Dakota Access while the federal government completes its review of the project. In fact, Reuters reports that energy consultancy Rapidan Energy Group set the odds of a temporary shutdown at 70%.
The pipeline currently ships “up to 570,000 barrels per day of North Dakota’s crude production to the U.S. Midwest and Gulf Coast,” the news agency adds. Were the line to close, “oil shippers out of the Bakken region in North Dakota and eastern Montana would have to rely on existing smaller pipelines and shipping by rail.”
Describing the years of battle that have been waged over the pipeline, DeSmog writes that the Biden administration’s silence on Dakota Access (as well as on Enbridge’s Line 3) echoes a similar absence in the U.S. government’s recently released 10-year blueprint for a US$2.25-trillion infrastructure package.
The IEN is calling out a “major oversight” in the proposal, DeSmog reports—that “it neither acknowledges nor strengthens tribal sovereignty.” The organization is urging the Biden administration “to consider a much more ambitious proposal put forward in February by a group of progressives in Congress—a $10-trillion package that would amount to a more dramatic acceleration of a clean energy transition, and one that calls for protections for Native American treaty rights and tribal sovereignty.”
The Transform, Heal, and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy Act (THRIVE) [pdf], which was “introduced by progressives in both the House and Senate, including Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as some considered more toward the centre of the political spectrum, such as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY),” has a much steeper price tag. But Indigenous leaders and climate activists believe it better meets the requirements for an effective and just transition.
The Hill reports that Markey and Warren were also among the 33 Democratic senators who, short days before the Army Corps decided against shutting down Dakota Access, wrote to Biden urging him to use his executive authority to take that action himself.
Describing such a shutdown as “a critical step toward righting the wrongs of the past and setting our nation on a path of environmental, climate, and social justice,” the letter adds that “by shutting down this illegal pipeline,” Biden has the opportunity to show that his administration “values the environment and the rights of Indigenous communities more than the profits of outdated fossil fuel industries.”
The fate of the Dakota Access Pipeline now rests in the hands of the federal judge overseeing the case. The IEN says the judge is expected to issue a ruling by April 19.