Written by Connie Larkman
The Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday granted final approval to the much-contested last section of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, its allies and environmental activists are vowing to keep up the opposition to that construction which would drill under a water reservoir at the Missouri River and potentially threaten the drinking water of millions of Americans.
The Army's Feb. 7 decision giving DAPL the go-ahead comes before the conclusion of the environmental impact study that is in the process of assessing the pipeline's impact on the Tribe, the environment, and those who rely on the river for their livelihood. If the DAPL construction is completed, 500,000 barrels of oil each day will be piped under the Missouri River at Lake Oahu less than one half-mile north of the Standing Rock Reservation.
"By announcing the easement and nullifying the environmental impact study that was in the midst of a public comment period, the administration has essentially given the middle finger to the public and turned its back on democracy," said the Rev. Brooks Berndt, UCC minister of environmental justice. "I say this not to be polemical, but to indicate how profane and morally offensive this action by the administration is."
Brooks and other UCC leaders condemned the government action without the due process the Standing Rock Nation deserves.
"It is critical to understand that even if oil never flows through the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Army Corps of Engineers decision to disregard its own process and approve the easement has already done considerable damage," said the Rev. Gordon Rankin, conference minister of the South Dakota Conference UCC. "By telling the Standing Rock Tribe and its allies that they would be consulted about treaty rights and then having a decision made with absolutely no consultation, the United States government has again shown that we in no way have evolved in our relationship with the First Nations people of this country."
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement it is not backing down from its challenge to the Army decision to grant the easement. "The drinking water of millions of Americans is now at risk. We are a sovereign nation and we will fight to protect our water and sacred places from the brazen private interests trying to push this pipeline through to benefit a few wealthy Americans with financial ties to the Trump administration," said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. "Americans have come together in support of the Tribe asking for a fair, balanced and lawful pipeline process. The environmental impact statement was wrongfully terminated."
As the Tribe challenges the decision on that basis, it is asking DAPL for risk assessment records and will seek to shut pipeline operations down should construction be completed. Standing Rock leaders are urging water protectors and their allies to show their displeasure in Washington D.C. instead of returning to the camps outside the construction site near Cannonball, N.D. A Native Nations march on Washington is slated for March 10.
UCC advocates are urging people of faith to participate in a number of ways. Join the UCC contingent at the Rise with Standing Rock march next month.
"Now is the time to turn our justified moral outrage into action," Berndt said. "March 10th is our opportunity to do that."
Reaching out to government leaders is another option. Stand with Standing Rock by calling Secretary of Defense James Mattis, since the Department of Defense has direct jurisdiction over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Let him know how damaging this decision can be.
"Hope was offered and ripped away. Promises made and broken...yet again. Once more we have said to the very first Americans that the needs of dominant society are more important than their needs," said Rankin. "I believe that if we turn our backs on God's children, we are turning our backs on God. If that is so, sin flourishes this day. And perhaps the most heartbreaking piece to me is that many will applaud it."