Update: Dakota Access Pipeline
Now for an Update regarding something we have talked about a couple of times: the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL.
The first thing to note is that North Dakota state police, with armored vehicles and riot gear and with guns drawn, have forcibly shut down the Oceti Sakowin encampment, the main encampment established to protest the pipeline and its potential impact on the drinking water and the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux.
The excuse, the one that is always employed in such cases, is that it was done for the safety and protection of those in the encampment. Not, of course, for the protection of the profit of any corporation.
On February 15, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed an emergency evacuation order claiming the risk of spring floods was justification to accomplish what they had desired to do all along: drive the people out. The order set a deadline of February 22 for everyone to get out or get arrested.
With just 200-300 of the earlier thousands of protesters still in the camp as the deadline approached, the remaining occupants burned down a number of the structures in what was described as a ceremony of departure as the people marched out, chanting and beating drums.
About 50 refused to leave, preferring nonviolent civil disobedience and arrest rather than submission in order to express their opposition to the order and their continuing opposition to the pipeline.
This bringing down of the hammer comes in the wake of TheRump signing executive actions last month to advance and accelerate approval of the DAPL by streamlining the regulatory process for construction and shortening any environmental review - and at the same time, we need to mention because it will doubtless come up later, tried to put the Keystone XL pipeline back in business.
That was followed up by TheRump canceling an an environmental-impact review mid-stream and the Army Corps of Engineers granting the final easement for pipeline construction beneath Lake Oahe without the usual two-week waiting period before an easement can be acted on.
This does not mean the fight is over, although if I'm to be blunt it looks pretty grim right now. But the spiritual occupation continues even if in a less dramatic way: New encampments are popping up on private land in the area, including one the Cheyenne River Sioux had earlier set up about a mile - or 1.5 kilometers - from the main camp.
And the fight in the courts goes on. On February 14, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a new challenge to the project, arguing that the canceling of the environmental review is illegal, the waiving of the waiting period for the easement is "arbitrary and capricious," and the process "wholly disregard[s] the treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux."
Meanwhile, the stench of corruption over this whole thing continues to thicken. For one thing, it came out in November that TheRump had as much as $1 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the pipeline, in 2015. In May 2016, the most recent information available, he still had as much as $50,000 invested in the company, along with as much as $250,000 invested in Phillips 66, an oil company which has a one-quarter share of Dakota Access.
And now it has emerged that when on last October 25 the Governors of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa sent a letter sent to the Army Corp of Engineers demanding approval of DAPL, they were quite literally working on behalf of Energy Transfer Partners: The letter contained only minor alterations from one provided to the governors by the LS2Group, a PR firm contracted by the pipeline builders to promote the project.
So right now things don't look so bright - but we need to keep on keepin' on. There is no other way.