North Dakota’s Republican governor expressed concerns Thursday that the Obama administration’s move to halt construction on an oil pipeline could be a “stonewall tactic” meant to permanently stop the project.
“I am hoping this is not a stonewall tactic,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in an interview at the state’s capitol. The governor did offer hope that President Barack Obama would eventually come to his senses and approve the highly contested Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I can’t believe that that’s really what they want,” Dalrymple said about the agencies responsible for temporarily halting the project. “They seem to be talking about the process going forward, and if that’s what the discussion is about, everyone is happy to participate.”
The Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior announced on Sept. 9 the pause in an area near the North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, a major water resource for the state’s Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
The temporary stoppage came shortly after the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, arguing that the Native American tribe could not show how the pipeline would damage the group’s sacred ground.
The tribe haggled with the oil pipeline developers over whether the National Historic Preservation Act, which allows the government to preserve historical and archaeological sites, can and should be used to prevent the building of the $3.8 billion pipeline.
The nearly 1,200-mile pipeline would be the first to shuttle Bakken shale from North Dakota directly to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Dalrymple urged the Obama administration not to conflate review of permits for the Dakota Access line with the goal of reconfiguring the entire the permitting process for pipelines near Native American lands.
“That is really two separate things,” he said.
Several surveys found that Energy Transfer Partners’ initial pipeline had 149 eligible sites, with 91 of them containing stone features considered sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a fact that eats into the efficacy of claims the permitting process is not thorough.
The pipeline was rerouted and modified to avoid all 91 of those areas, and all but nine of the other potentially eligible sites, according to the court’s decision in the case.
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