Dakota Access exploded into a national controversy in recent weeks, as protests against the project swelled and violence broke out after protesters were attacked by dogs. Environmentalists have been keen on turning the Dakota Access Pipeline into a rerun of the Keystone XL saga, elevating the project to a national symbol around which protestors could be rallied.
But unlike Keystone XL, it did not take eight years to grab the White House’s attention. On Friday, September 9, a federal judge ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux’s request to block construction, handing Dakota Access a victory by allowing construction to proceed. However, an hour later, something really unusual occurred. A joint letter was issued from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Interior. The letter asked the pipeline company to “voluntarily pause” construction anyway, even though the court had ruled in the company’s favor.......
The agencies wrote that they will need time to determine whether or not they have to review the permitting decisions again, due to the issues raised by Standing Rock Sioux. “Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.”
This may seem like a bit of arcane procedural mumbo jumbo, but the effects could be far-reaching. The Obama administration said that not only would it not allow the pipeline to move forward, at least temporarily, but it also said that the conflict highlighted the potential need for nationwide reform on how infrastructure is sited on Native lands.