By Grant Smith, National News Writer
On Sunday December 4, after lasting through the sweltering summer heat and the bitter cold winter of the American Midwest, protestors of the North Dakota Access Pipeline received heartening news: the Army Corp of Engineers announced plans to search for alternative pathways to build the pipeline. Of course, this does not remove the platforms, the barbed wire fences, the authorities, or plans to re-route the pipeline itself.
As reported by the Washington Post, the dangerous situation of protestors camping out on federal land in the harsh winters of North Dakota has not been solved, and Governor Jack Darymple has said the solution “does nothing to resolve the issue.”
This has not stopped some protestors from celebrating upon hearing that easement would not be granted under the Missouri River and Lake Oahe in particular. As one elated protestor said: “I’m happy as heck; all our prayers have been answered.”
The point at issue with the December 4 decision isn’t necessarily the decision itself – The issue with the announcement has been the lack of a definitive nature that it engenders, leaving the outcome of the decision unknown.
Given the polarizing nature of the issue, many people lie on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, and this lack of clarity has been frustrating to both those in favor of the pipeline, and those staunchly opposed to it.
Furthermore, at any point the Army Corp of Engineers could change its mind. After all, President Obama’s administration was a leading force behind the decision, and with the January 20 inauguration day rapidly approaching, the executive branch’s stance on the issue could soon change drastically. As first reported by Reuters, President-elect Trump is a supporter of the pipeline..
Mr. Trump’s newfound involvement and support have come under a certain level scrutiny for his possible entanglements with the project itself. Mr. Trump once owned stock worth between $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners, the company who owns the pipeline. The Washington Post reports that as of his latest financial disclosures in May, Mr. Trump still owned a stake worth anywhere between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66 Company, an energy company which possesses a 25 percent stock in the project.
Mr. Trump has stated that he sold off that stock when he became the Republican nominee for president. However, as he has not released his tax returns and has produced no further demonstrative evidence, there has been no definitive proof that this is the case. Meanwhile, Kelcy Warren the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, was a major contributor to Mr. Trump’s successful presidential campaign.
For their part, Energy Transfer Partners still plans to complete the project on the previously arranged pathway. In a statement posted on their website, the company said the decision was “just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.”
While the protesters have cited water safety concerns and the violation of sacred tribal sites, including burial grounds, the company has called to safety precautions taken in construction, such as automatic shut-off switches should the pipe burst.
Kelcy Warren, in a video released by the company stated that “absent human error” which could cause a widespread oil leak, the pipeline is “very, very safe.” Whichever side one might fall on, relying on the absence of human error to ensure the safety of the water supply could be a cause for concern.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 10th print edition.
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