CHICAGO — The US government reiterated its request that construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota be paused, while authorities consider the impacts of its route on a Native American tribe.
The Dakota Access Pipeline has been the subject of a months-long protest, in which Native Americans and their supporters have camped out in the state’s prairie lands to block the pipeline’s route underneath the Missouri River and the adjoining man-made Lake Oahe.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the project threatens its drinking water source, and could destroy ancient sacred sites near the tribe’s reservation, which is less than a mile from the pipeline.
A month ago, the federal government had asked the pipeline’s operator, Energy Transfer Partners, to pause construction within 32 kilometres of the disputed area, while authorities evaluate the tribe’s claims.
But a federal appeals court on Sunday denied the tribe’s request to order a temporary stop to construction, prompting the Departments of Justice, Army and Interior to once again issue a statement of support. The Army controls the permitting process for US navigable waterways.
"We also look forward to a serious discussion during a series of consultations... on whether there should be nationwide reform on the tribal consultation process for these types of infrastructure projects," the statement said.
The standoff between the Sioux tribe and the pipeline’s builder has grown into a protest movement in the United States, emboldening Indian tribes, environmentalists and advocates for Native Americans.
’I’m shaking... so scary’
The protest has also received vocal support from Hollywood celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Susan Sarandon.
Actress Shailene Woodley, of the "Divergent" film series, was arrested on Monday while participating in a protest, along with reportedly some 200 others near a pipeline construction site.
She was charged with criminal trespass and engaging in a riot, the Morton County Sherrif’s office said. She posted a $500 fine and is due in court on October 24.
Woodley livestreamed the protest and her arrest on Facebook, showing police with armored vehicles and riot gear. The video had garnered almost 2.4 million views by the early evening hours.
"Oh my God, there’s so much riot police... They all have batons... I’m shaking, this is so scary," Woodley says in the video.
"They grabbed me by my jacket and said I couldn’t continue and they have giant, like, guns and batons and zip ties and they’re not letting me go," she adds as she’s being placed under arrest.
Dozens of police can be seen taking position, wearing helmets and bulletproof vests, and armed with rifles.
A total of 27 people were arrested, Morton County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rob Keller said.
There have been repeated clashes over the last several months between protesters, pipeline workers and police, and a total of 123 arrests, authorities said.
If fully constructed, the pipeline would pass through four states, carrying oil extracted in North Dakota near the Canadian border, 1,172 miles southeast to Illinois. — AFP