Tribes Celebrate Court-Ordered Shutdown of Pipeline

A federal judge has shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline after years of bitter protests at the site.

(Wikimedia Commons)

A U.S. district court on Monday delivered a major win to local Indigenous organizers and climate activists—and a significant blow to the fossil fuel industry and the Trump administration—by ordering the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to be shut down and emptied of oil by Aug. 5 while federal regulators conduct an environmental review of the project.

DAPL, as the Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) pipeline is widely known, transports crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken shale basin to a terminal in Illinois. The pipeline has gained international notoriety in recent years due to protests—particularly on and around the Standing Rock Indian Reservation—by environmentalists and Native Americans who live along the route.

The Monday decision by D.C.-based District Judge James E. Boasberg comes after four years of litigation brought by the Standing Rock Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, and others against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for allowing ETP to construct and operate the pipeline beneath Lake Oahe, a dammed portion of the Missouri River near the reservation.

The Obama administration denied permits for DAPL to cross the river in December 2016, but President Donald Trump signed an executive order advancing the project shortly after taking office in January 2017. The pipeline was completed and operating within months.

Boasberg’s move to shut down DAPL was welcomed by critics of the pipeline.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

“It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock,” added Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman, who represents the tribe. “If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.”

In a separate statement, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) delcared, “We are celebrating this order as it vindicates the many prayers, actions, and legal arguments of Oceti Sakowin tribal nations and communities!”

“The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes have shown the world that treaty rights and environmental justice are not token concepts without merit, but rather tangible arguments that inherently protect the sacredness of mother earth,” IEN said. “We will continue to fight until DAPL is stopped completely “

Boasberg’s order Monday followed his finding in March that the Corps had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when approving federal permits for DAPL. The Corps is expected to finish it full court-ordered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the pipeline by mid-2021.

The decision to temporarily shut down DAPL came just a day after two energy companies cancelled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) that would have transported fracked gas through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina—a move that activists called a “historic victory for clean water, the climate, public health, and our communities.”

“These monumental defeats for the fossil fuel industry are a clear sign that bold community opposition, strategic legal challenges and state-level clean energy legislation are all working together to thwart the Trump administration’s pro-polluter agenda,” Food & Water Action policy director Mitch Jones said in a statement Monday, referencing both the DAPL decision and the ACP cancellation.

“The campaign to stop the Dakota Access pipeline, led by Indigenous groups whose water would have been directly impacted by that filthy project, inspired and emboldened climate activists across the country,” Jones continued. “The Trump White House can boast and bluster all it wants, and corporate behemoths can scheme to take advantage of the administration’s fondness for fossil fuels, but they are no match for determined grassroots opposition movements fighting for environmental justice and an end to the degradation of our air, water and climate.”

“Fossil fuels are dying,” he added, “and there is little that Donald Trump can do to save them.”

A pipeline installation between farms, as seen from 50th Avenue in New Salem, North Dakota. (Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons)

Greenpeace USA climate director Janet Redman called the DAPL shutdown a “huge victory for the courageous members” of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allied activists “who fought to protect their land, their water, and their right to a healthy and safe future.”

“This is as much a victory for human rights and Indigenous sovereignty as it is for the climate,” Redman said in a statement Monday before also connecting the two wins.

“Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access Pipeline and other environmentally reckless fossil fuel infrastructure projects will only make billionaires richer while the rest of us suffer,” Redman said. “Today’s ruling—arriving on the heels of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline victory—may be a calamity for oil and gas executives looking to profit from the disastrous climate crisis, but it’s a huge win for those of us committed to a livable world. A just transition to renewable energy is not only the future, it is the only responsible choice for today.”

“The past 24 hours,” she added, “have sent a loud and clear message to fossil fuel corporations still committed to constructing dangerous pipelines—the future does not belong to you.”

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14 comments for “Tribes Celebrate Court-Ordered Shutdown of Pipeline

  1. robert e williamson jr
    July 9, 2020 at 14:44

    Could it be possible that this “win” is a stalling action by big oil and the courts?

    The white man has a horrid history of giving something to the indigenous peoples and at the soonest opportunity yanking it back away from them. Only to force genocide upon them. Last time it was smallpox in blankest, this time maybe it is this virus.

    This president is a resounding failure given his track record dealing with it, and this maybe by design. A genocide driven by the neglect of the federal government and law enforcement in general.

    It seems to be working with democrats who are suspiciously quiet about what is happening.

    I woiuld love to see proof I’m wrong!

  2. Bart Hansen
    July 8, 2020 at 10:24

    We are very happy here in the beautiful country west of Charlottesville that was threatened by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline!


    July 8, 2020 at 09:39

    “We will continue to fight until DAPL is stopped completely ” The article clearly states this is a temporary shutdown. This ruling has not yet been challenged. No need to remind everyone that it’s not over yet. In the meantime, the tribes say it’s a victory.

  4. Zhu
    July 7, 2020 at 21:06

    If you have spent any time in S. Dakota, you know the wind blows all time. It’s a great place for wind power!

  5. Dakota Joe
    July 7, 2020 at 16:07

    Let’s give the Black Hills back to their rightful owners then! — the Arikara Indians: hXXp://

    • Jane Christ
      July 9, 2020 at 08:49

      Glad for the success.

  6. Andrew Thomas
    July 7, 2020 at 16:01

    Yes, it is great. No word in any stay pending appeal, which I would expect the company to request. If one is granted, it would normally require a bond, the amount of which depends upon the likelihood and extent of irreparable harm. The appeal would go to the DC Circuit, which is filled with Federalist Society creatures, and then the Supremes, who, when they rule against what Trump wants, normally give him a roadmap to doing awful things in a way they’ll approve. A great development, but a long way from over.

    • Skip Scott
      July 8, 2020 at 08:25

      Thanks for your comment. I wasn’t aware of the details, but figured we were a long ways from popping the champagne. As for a bond, I can’t imagine that you could put a realistic dollar value on the likely irreparable harm. Some things are bigger than money.

  7. Susan
    July 7, 2020 at 14:49

    Hooray for District Judge James E. Boasberg. It is about time for some sanity in this insane country!

  8. Rael Nidess, M.D.
    July 7, 2020 at 13:28

    Wonderful!! Sadly Warren Buffets oil trains will continue transporting Bakken Crude from the oilfields to south Texas refineries just as has been going on since the DAPL protests began. DAPL keeps the activists diverted, the oil keeps pumping, & Buffet’s laughing hysterically all the way to the bank [].

    Not to sound cynical, but this is an issue of tribal sovereignty, not ecology, although the risk of a catastrophic leak into the Missouri River is real.

    • Voice from Europe
      July 12, 2020 at 04:14

      Pipelines are indeed still the most ecological way of transporting fossil liquids and gasses.
      In Europe there are studies that Hydrogen could be transported through the extensive gas networks even into people’s homes where it can easily be converted to clean electricity…
      That supposes future Hydrogen production coming from wind and solar installations.

  9. Annei
    July 7, 2020 at 12:27

    Great, and although you can’t change the past you certainly can change the future. I’m so happy the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allied activists fought and won this battle. Hope this is just a beginning.

  10. Aaron
    July 7, 2020 at 11:49

    Finally some good news! The Mauna Loa for July 5 of CO2 is 415.13. We’re in deep trouble, the extreme weather events will make life very difficult. I thought Jay Inslee was one of the only voices of sanity in the debate, saying he’d make this an emergency immediately, that’s exactly what it is.

  11. AnneR
    July 7, 2020 at 10:48

    Much more power to Native American elbows – I hope. And I truly hope that this decision Stands. My fear is that it will be taken to the Supremos – and there…. So every digit crossed and all hope for a profound Native American victory.

Comments are closed.