The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Wednesday it started a review of the Dakota Access pipeline, and denied previous reports suggesting the agency had approved the controversial project.
“The Assistant Secretary for the Army Civil Works will make a decision on the pipeline once a full review and analysis is completed in accordance with the directive,” the Army Corps said in a statement Wednesday. The pipeline stretches nearly 1,200 miles from North Dakota’s oil-producing Bakken region to Illinois.
The statement contradicts earlier reports by Republican Sen. John Hoeven indicating acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer directed the Army Corps “to proceed with the easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline.”
Standing Rock Sioux, one of the tribes opposing the so-called DAPL, believe the line’s construction would trample on tribal lands and potentially poison waterways, including rivers such as the Missouri River and Lake Oahe.
Hoeven’s report sent the tribe and its supporters into a panic, with some suspecting the report was meant to enrage the project’s opponents.
Lewis Grassrope, a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, said President Donald Trump and various Republican North Dakota lawmakers were trying to use the earlier reports to inspire fear among opponents.
“They want us to react and go do actions, which will give them the right to say, ‘OK, they’re not peaceful. So let’s put in this pipeline,'” he said. Grassrope appears to be referring Hoeven’s calls to bring the months-long debacle to a “peaceful resolution.”
Jade Begay, spokeswoman for the Indigenous Environmental Network, one of the primary groups protesting the $3.8 billion line, mirrored Grassrope’s concerns.
“People (in protest camps) are watching pretty closely,” she said in a statement. “People are in a reactionary place and it is dangerous for politicians to put out these unfounded statements.”
Standing Rock had previously won delays from the Obama administration for further environmental review — the tribe’s success was tempered significantly after Trump signed an executive order telling the Corps of Engineers to expedite review of the project. A President Barack Obama-appointed official in the Army Corps rejected the previously approved project route in December.
It is unclear how long the Army Corps’ review will take, but some analysts believe the Obama administration’s request for a similar environmental review would take as long as two years to complete.
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