A Day of Action To Stop An Oil Pipeline and “Keep It In The Ground”

Isaiah J. Poole

Bolstered by an extraordinary order from the Obama administration to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at a site considered sacred and environmentally vulnerable by Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, thousands upon thousands of pipeline opponents will participate Tuesday in “#NoDAPL Day of Action” events around the country, including an event at the White House at 5 p.m. featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.).

At the same time, a broad coalition of organizations has launched a petition drive calling on President Obama to cancel oil and gas sale leases on public lands, such as the Bakken fields that are the source of the crude oil the Dakota Access Pipeline is being built to transport.

The day of action against the pipeline is being supported by a combination of Native American, environmental and progressive groups, including Honor the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, 350.org, CREDO Action and the Sierra Club.

The fight over the pipeline has received national attention thanks to the organizing done by native peoples at a construction site on the land of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota.

Libero Della Piana explained the controversy in a September 1 OurFuture.org post:

Given the troubling record of pipeline safety in the U.S. the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is gravely concerned that the pipeline’s planned path across the Missouri River is just one mile upstream from the 8,000-person reservation. The Missouri is the tribe’s only source of water. The pipeline will also disturb sacred sites on land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers.

[…] “We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites,” Dave Archambault II, the elected chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a statement. “But the Army Corps has ignored all those laws and fast-tracked this massive project just to meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.”

As of the beginning of August, local authorities had arrested nearly two dozen peaceful protesters, including elected tribal leaders. The tribe filed a formal injunction to halt construction on the pipeline, about which they say they were not consulted.

On Friday, the tribe received bad news on that injunction, which had been denied. But later that day, a joint statement by the Departments of Justice, Interior and the Army said that the government would not authorized further pipeline construction on the contented site while it reviews the concerns raised by the tribe. “Furthermore, this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects,” the statement went on to say. The agencies promised to consider whether changes are needed in the process for including “meaningful tribal input” in future decisions regarding projects like the pipeline.

Judith LeBlanc, the director of the Native Organizers Alliance and a member of the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma, was on the scene of the protests at the construction site, and she said for the tribes that banded together to oppose DAPL the statement was a significant victory for what she calls “the largest show of unity and grassroots power in our history.”

“The joint statement by the DOJ and other agencies makes it clear that the process used to approve this pipeline’s construction was insufficient and did not fully take into account the environmental impact or the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Native peoples,” she said in response.

“The fight isn’t over. American Indians will continue to lead this movement to save Mother Earth because our ancestors are depending on us to protect the water and land for our people, and for humanity” said LeBlanc. “We cannot and should not allow our culture, our land, and Mother Earth to be put at risk for private gain.”

A petition drive that is endorsed by People’s Action as well as some of the organizations supporting the #NoDAPL day of action makes the point that what is at stake is more than one pipeline and one tribe’s struggle to protect its water and land.

The devastating effects of climate change are revealing themselves in events like the historic flooding that devastated communities in Louisiana in August. While presidential candidate Donald Trump and much of the Republican Party he seeks to lead proclaims that climate change is a hoax and vows to break international agreements that commit the United States to move toward renewable energy, thermometers don’t lie: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration recently reported that globally the month of August tied with July as the hottest month the world has seen in 136 years.

While that is happening, the Obama administration has scheduled an online auction on September 20 of public sites for future oil exploration. “This will make it harder for people to voice their concerns, and easier for oil and gas corporations to take our public resources for their profit,” says an email sent this week by People’s Action.

“The victory on Dakota Access Pipeline shows the power of protest and solidarity. It shows that when we act, we can win,” the email continues. “We must act along with front-line communities facing the direct effects of climate change, and of oil and gas extraction and transport. Obama wants to leave a legacy on climate change; let him know that that legacy begins with canceling future lease sales. It’s time to keep it in the ground.”

Sign this petition to call on President Obama to “keep it in the ground” and stop the auctioning of public land for fossil fuel extraction. To join a #NoDAPL Day of Action event, refer to this Action Network page.

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