Army Corps Denies Dakota Access Pipeline Easement

Update: December 9, 2016 – Responding to a cross-claim filed by Dakota Access last month seeking to green-light pipeline construction under the Missouri river, U.S. District County Judge James Boasberg announced today that a hearing on the matter would not be held until early February 2017. Judge Boasberg also ordered the federal government to submit a response to DAPL’s cross-claim by January 9, 2017. On Wednesday, December 8th, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe submitted a joint status report to the court saying that DAPL’s cross-claim was “without merit“.

The tribes reserve their rights to make any argument, and seek any relief, to prevent the completion of the project while their original claims are litigated Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Status Report


Oceti Sakowin, ND – On Sunday afternoon, December 4th, Chairman Dave Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe announced that he had been informed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had denied the easement permit necessary for the Dakota Access Pipeline to go under the Missouri River.

An atmosphere of celebration quickly erupted at the Oceti Sakowin camp when the news was announced:

The decision was confirmed shortly later in a statement issued on the Army’s website:

The Department of the Army will not approve an easement that would allow the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, the Army’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Works announced today.


Jo-Ellen Darcy said she based her decision on a need to explore alternate routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline crossing. Her office had announced on November 14, 2016 that it was delaying the decision on the easement to allow for discussions with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation lies 0.5 miles south of the proposed crossing. Tribal officials have expressed repeated concerns over the risk that a pipeline rupture or spill could pose to its water supply and treaty rights.


“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Darcy said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.” Darcy said that the consideration of alternative routes would be best accomplished through an Environmental Impact Statement with full public input and analysis.” – US Army Statement

North Dakota congressman Kevin Cramer issued a statement denouncing the Army Corps’ decision, saying it set a “chilling signal for infrastructure development“. Governor Jack Dalrymple was reported to have called denying the easement “a serious mistake“.

The Water Protector Legal Collective, a group of attorneys assisting the #NoDAPL movement, applauded the decision to deny the easement, and called for authorities to go a step further and drop all criminal charges filed against water protectors.

In light of today’s decision by the Obama Administration, the Water Protector Legal Collective calls on the State of North Dakota to immediately drop criminal charges against the more than 550 Water Protectors who have been arrested related to their peaceful and prayerful protest against DAPL these past nine months. The WPLC also calls on local law enforcement agencies to pull back from the Water Protectors’ camps and dismantle the road blockades and checkpoints they have instituted, and further demands that federal and state agencies conduct a full investigation into law enforcement abuses against Water Protectors which have included violations of their First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights” – Angela Bibens, Water Protector Legal Collective

Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics responded late on Sunday with a statement that suggests they may continue ahead with plans to drill under the Missouri river:

Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. (NYSE: ETP) and Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (NYSE: SXL) announced that the Administration’s statement today that it would not at this time issue an “easement” to Dakota Access Pipeline is a purely political action – which the Administration concedes when it states it has made a “policy decision” – Washington code for a political decision. This is nothing new from this Administration, since over the last four months the Administration has demonstrated by its action and inaction that it intended to delay a decision in this matter until President Obama is out of office.


For more than three years now, Dakota Access Pipeline has done nothing but play by the rules. The Army Corps of Engineers agrees, and has said so publicly and in federal court filings. The Corps’ review process and its decisions have been ratified by two federal courts. The Army Corps confirmed this again today when it stated its “policy decision” does “not alter the Army’s position that the Corps’ prior reviews and actions have comported with legal requirements.”


In spite of consistently stating at every turn that the permit for the crossing of the Missouri River at Lake Oahe granted in July 2016, comported with all legal requirements, including the use of an environmental assessment, rather than an environmental impact statement, the Army Corps now seeks to engage in additional review and analysis of alternative locations for the pipeline.


The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is 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.


As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.– Energy Transfer Partners statement

A statement by Sacred Stone Camp pointed out that several factors mean the Dakota Access Pipeline could still be completed, and called for a month of action for all of December:

The Trump administration could easily approve the project early next year. The Obama Administration has never guaranteed the water protectors or the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that they would use force to stop Dakota Access from drilling under the river without a permit, if necessary. The Army Corps has not yet agreed to pursue a full EIS for the entire length of the pipeline.

Organizers continue to call for every day of December to be “a day of #NoDAPL action” against the investors of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Over 100 solidarity actions worldwide have already been registered for the coming weeks as the encampment continues to stand their ground.– Sacred Stone Camp, DAPL Easement Denied, But The Fight’s Not Over

Meanwhile, at the Oceti Sakowin camp, hundreds of cars continued flooding-in after the news of the Army Corps ruling.

A few hours after darkness fell, fireworks filled the night sky as traffic continued flowing into the camp.

Unicorn Riot will continue to regularly provide direct updates about resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Follow our media on Twitter, Facebook, and our website for more information.

To help our volunteer-operated, horizontally-organized, non-profit media collective please consider a tax-deductible donation:


Below is Unicorn Riot’s coverage of the [#NoDAPL] anti-Dakota Access Pipeline struggle from early summer 2016 to present:

March – May 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016