DAPL Confrontation Likely Back On as New President Shifts Policies

No DAPL Protesters in Davis

Back in December, then-President Barack Obama handed a major victory for thousands of protesters and Indigenous People, when the Department of the Army announced it would not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

For months, protesters and authorities had squared off over an easement of land near the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation.  Tribal officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about the risk that a pipeline rupture or spill could pose to its water supply and treaty rights.  They have been joined by thousands of protesters over the period of several months, resulting in arrests and complaints about police brutality.

That all changed on Tuesday with the stroke of a pen by new President Donald Trump.

The President’s memorandum “directed the relevant Federal agencies (including the Army Corps of Engineers) to expedite reviews and approvals for the remaining portions of the Dakota Access Pipeline., a $3.8 billion, 1,100-mile pipeline designed to carry around 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil from the Bakken and Three Forks oil production areas in North Dakota to oil markets in the U.S.”

The President indicated, “At this time, DAPL is more than 90% complete across its entire route.  Only a limited stretch of the project is not yet constructed. Timely review and approval of energy pipelines is critical to a strong economy, energy independence, and national security.

“I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday. “But it’s out of control, and we’re going to make it a very short process. And we’re going to either give you your permits, or we’re not going to give you your permits. But you’re going to know very quickly. And generally speaking, we’re going to be giving you your permits.”

Mr. Trump also resurrected the Keystone XL pipeline.

In 2015, President Obama would reject that extension to the Keystone Pipeline system, arguing that it would undercut American leadership in curbing the reliance on carbon energy.

Environmental leaders were quick to denounce the new decisions.  “Donald Trump has been in office for four days, and he’s already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club.

However it is the Dakota Access Pipeline, or DAPL, that figures to have broad ramifications – not just on environmental policy but as the flashpoint between protests, civil rights and police brutality.

The local police at Standing Rock, even before the new president had taken office, engaged in escalation tactics with the protesters.  An early October communication from the ACLU noted, “And for the past six weeks…   the Morton County Sheriff’s Office has dramatically increased its surveillance of the gathering, militarized the county, and taken action to suppress the religious expression of the indigenous people gathered at Sacred Stone.”

They noted “the use of surveillance, military-style force, and religious oppression.”

A November rally in Davis saw protesters block intersections.  Francisco Dominguez told the crowd he saw this issue as “environmental racism.”  He said, “These companies have been preying upon Indian Reservations across this land…  they’ve been doing it for years.”

He described an action that occurred in the early 1980s on another reservation, which he said they destroyed the land.  “In many places they have to truck the water in, because it’s poison,” Mr. Dominguez said.  “This movement that we had today, that should have been happening then.”

The media, he said, did not pay attention because it was happening on an Indian Reservation, therefore “it doesn’t affect us.”  But he said, “Whatever happens on an Indian Reservation, ends up affecting society as we see it.  Now all lands have been opened up for oil exploration, extraction, fracking by our own government.  Last time I checked, I thought we had a democracy here.”

“In mid-August, Gov. Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency for southwest and central south North Dakota in response to actions taken by the water protectors. Despite the governor’s and the local sheriff’s verbal commitment to allowing constitutionally protected lawful protest, the result of the state of emergency has been a vast suppression of the right to protest and a dramatic increase in police surveillance around — and above — the camp,” the ACLU noted.

By late October the stand off actually heated up as protesters indicated they would not back down.  Police in riot gear would face off with protesters.  There were mass arrests.  “Tensions are so high that Amnesty International is sending representatives to monitor the arrests,” CNN reported.

It is important to note that these clashes came under the Obama administration.  President Trump’s signing now marks a major shift in policy and, with it, could bring back the contentious protests.

The Keystone and Dakota pipelines are more symbolic but provide a way for the new President to demonstrate a major policy shift.  Studies downplay the impact of either pipeline on jobs or the environment.

Estimates from the State Department suggest that Keystone would support only about 42,000 temporary jobs for two years, and only 35 permanent ones.  Meanwhile Keystone’s carbon emissions would equal less than 1 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Meanwhile, DAPL protests already ratcheted up with a protest in downtown Sacramento yesterday near the Army Corps of Engineers Office on J Street.

Critics vowed to keep resisting the projects.

Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for Earthjustice, an environmental law group representing the tribe, said “They’re just ignoring the problems that the government has already found,” he said, “and that is the kind of thing that courts need to review very closely.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Keith O

    Obama let the pipeline get mostly installed knowing all along what route it will take just to punt it down the road to Trump because as usual Obama couldn’t make the hard decisions.  Just as he punted the ball on Iran leaving another crisis for future administrations.  He didn’t want to tarnish his legacy any more than it already is.

    Trump has accomplished more in 4 days than Obama did in all eight of his years.

  2. Tia Will


    Trump has accomplished more in 4 days than Obama did in all eight of his years.”

    These are only seen as “accomplishments” if you agree with his actions. If you see this as a betrayal of the religious and land use rights of a native population, and a dismantling of critical environmental protections, then, not so much so. I recommend reading today’s article on Sutter and applying the principles ( not the degree of abuse) to the actions of the current president.  From my perspective, causing material harm to an already disadvantaged population in the name of the “common good”, is not being a president for “all of the people” but certainly provides yet more wealth for the already prosperous.


  3. Keith O

     Meanwhile Keystone’s carbon emissions would equal less than 1 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

    Zero is less than 1 percent.  The pipeline will actually save on carbon emissions.  The fuel will be transported through pipes instead of trains and trucks saving on emissions.

          1. David Greenwald

            I’m sure that will console the tribal people concerned about the impacts of the pipeline. Why not divert it? Why rub their face in it?

          2. Don Shor

            The place to fight Standing Rock is in court. The potential for violence, both by protesters and by the state law enforcement agencies, is too high. The Standing Rock Sioux have asked the protesters to leave.

            Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
            January 21 at 9:26am ·

            For Immediate Release. 1-21-17
            The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is grateful to all who have stood with us during our efforts to secure a thorough review of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Because we worked together, the Federal Government will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. Moving forward, our ultimate objective is best served by our elected officials, navigating strategically through the administrative and legal processes.
            Yesterday the Tribe passed a resolution brought forward by the Cannonball District which asked that no camps remain in the Cannonball District. Councilmen from across the reservation, including Cannonball, described the hardships and strain on the citizens and resources of our Nation. The Council passed the motion unanimously. For this reason, we ask the protectors to vacate the camps and head home with our most heartfelt thanks. Much work will be required to clean up before the spring thaw, which will flood the area. It is imperative we clean the camps and restore them to their original state before this flooding occurs. Once again, thank you, and we wish you well.

        1. Keith O

          Only if the leftist activists/anarchists choose to take it down the violent path.

          But this is still a long way off, environmental groups will hold the projects up in court for a long time.

        2. Keith O

          Did the videos explain what happened before they were sprayed, what attacks the protesters might have taken to provoke the spraying and tear gas, etc.

          Like I say, you can’t trust the news anymore because most of the time they have an agenda.

          1. David Greenwald

            I’m not sure what your point is here – you have the police account and you have the protesters account. And you have the videos. You have to make up your own mind based on that information. Not sure where you think the press enters in here.

      1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


        I’m sure that will console the tribal people concerned about the impacts of the pipeline. Why not divert it? Why rub their face in it?


        We had  the  discussion previously  about . This is about more  money for the tribe. Politics .


  4. Tia Will


    It is not this point that is of contention to me. Rather it is the choice of location potentially compromising the lands of a sovereign nation  when apparently there may be other options.

    A second point is my agreement with a previous participant on the Vanguard who stated that with regard to environmental preservation, the immediate energy needs take precedence and that humanity would just have “to adapt” to the ensuing environmental degradation. I would suggest that the time for that adaptation is now, not once we have created still more problems for our children to “adapt to”.

    A major part of that adaptation would be for us to begin transitioning to a less consumption driven society now. There are two sides to this equation and energy generation is certainly one of them. However, I see far too little attention being paid to the primary cause of the need for more energy, which is overuse. I see no attention at all being paid to this side of the equation from the most glaring example of conspicuous consumption of whom I am aware, namely the current occupant of the White House.Making preservation and conservation our primary directives over consumption would make a large difference in the need for destructive incursions into our natural resources.

  5. Jaroslaw Waszczuk

    . I see no attention at all being paid to this side of the equation from the most glaring example of conspicuous consumption of whom I am aware, namely the current occupant of the White House

    Good Morning Tia

    ” Lefty Loosey, Righty Tighty .”  “Current  Occupant of the White Hose ”  Hmmm.  Hate , hate , hate .

    1. Tia Will


      “Current occupant of the White House is not an expression of hate. I do not hate our current president. I highly respect the office of the President. I have absolutely zero respect for the current president. This is based not on hearsay or false news. It is based on his own readily accessible words, speeches and actions. Please do not confuse hatred with lack of respect.


  6. John Hobbs

    ” And probably a violent one.”

    Indeed, people are very protective of their homes.

    We will see how heavily “invested” the Trump administration in protecting big oil’s right to destroy the environment.

    1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk


      Tribe and  government should make sure that  the environment would be properly  protected and the tribe should be get fair share from the revenue.  This is a lot better money maker project for the tribe than Indians Casinos.

        1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk

          I don’t think they have asked for revenue, have they?


          It was the money issue .  I think we discussed it in previous article . Follow the money and learn the true as Marina says .

  7. David Greenwald

    The pipeline was originally designed to run much farther north — near Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. But as Bill McKibben wrote in The New Yorker, officials rerouted it when people there raised concerns that it could jeopardize the community’s water supply.
    But now, instead of risking Bismarck, the route could threaten the Standing Rock Sioux.
    “Our aquifers and rivers are fed by this river,” Yumul said. “If it were to get contaminated, it would affect all of the tribal nations. The idea of that … it would be a death sentence at this point.”

        1. Keith O

          Yeah whatever:

          Here’s Snopes answer to this:

          CLAIM:The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was re-routed through the Standing Rock Reservation after Bismarck’s mostly-white residents refused to allow it near their water supply.
          WHATS TRUE: The U.S Army Corps of Engineers originally considered a Dakota Access Pipeline route north of Bismarck but abandoned the idea, citing eleven miles of additional pipeline length and dozens more crossings.
          WHATS FALSE: “Mostly white” residents of Bismarck did not refuse to accept the threat to their water supply, and the project was not subsequently forced upon tribes at Standing Rock because white people rejected the risk.

          There’s more that refutes the claim you cited:

        2. David Greenwald

          You should have read the Snopes article on it rather than the blog you cited…

          If you had you would have seen this: “One reason mentioned in the agency’s environmental assessment is the proximity to wellhead source water protection areas that are avoided to protect municipal water supply wells.”

          That means that McKibben’s report is correct and the Snopes article focused on other factors such as who directed the change and the racial component, none of which is mentioned here.


  8. Tia Will

    I think that it is important not to generalize or oversimplify the intentions of protestors. While some  on the reservation may have seen this as a possibility for financial gain, I sincerely doubt that is a motivation for many of the tribe’s supporters who would never profit financially but have genuine concerns about the environment and the rights of Native Americans. This is witnessed in the clip of a Native American soldier who commented on the irony of having risked his life in the Middle East conflicts and  returned only to have to fight again for his religious rights and right to sovereign autonomy within his own country.

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