The company behind the hotly contested Dakota Access pipeline is not backing down despite historic uprising against the project, maintaining that the pipeline will not be rerouted away from the heart of resistance near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation — even though it’s planned path has already been changed once.
Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren told the Associated Press in an interview published Friday that the pipeline’s route is not up for negotiation. President Barack Obama said earlier this month that a possible reroute was under consideration.
The pipeline project has faced months of resistance led by Indigenous groups, forcing a delay in the project as federal regulators undertake further review before giving the green light to the completion of the project. If approved, the pipeline is set to tunnel under Lake Oahe, which has been at the heart of opposition to the project as an important water source in the area.
The US$3.8 billion and 1,172 mile pipeline is planned to transport oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale area to Patoka, Illinois, as part of a system headed south to the Gulf of Mexico.
The pipeline was already rerouted once in a move slammed as environmental racism. The proposed project was initially slated to cut across the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota, but water quality and other health concerns in the majority-white city led authorities to change the course of the pipeline to near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Dave Archambault, has blasted federal regulators and the pipeline developers for racial bias.
“This pipeline was rerouted towards our tribal nations when other citizens of North Dakota rightfully rejected it in the interests of protecting their communities and water,” he said in a statement three weeks ago. “We seek the same consideration as those citizens.”
Warren’s announcement that Energy Transfer Partners will not reroute the pipeline came after the CEO directed disparaging comments at the demonstrators, who call themselves “water protectors,” maintaining resistance camps against the project. Warren accused them of leading “not a peaceful protest” and called the water protectors “naive” for thinking they could stop the pipeline.
The CEO also claimed that the pipeline route does not go through Native American but private lands. Native Americans claim to be the rightful owners of the lands, historically occupied by their people for thousands of years, under a 1981 treaty with the U.S. government. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe claims sacred sites have already been desecrated by the construction.
Warren donated more than US$100,000 to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The president-elect is expected to ramp up fossil fuels development and push through the Dakota Access pipeline even if it continues to stall during Obama’s last months in office.
The pipeline developer has already been amassing equipment on the edge of Lake Oahe to plow ahead with construction, pending further review.