Critics protest Obama administration overriding court to halt Dakota pipeline

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( – Critics say the Obama Administration’s decision to override a federal court’s decision — to allow construction of an oil pipeline in Dakota to continue after an Indian Tribe sought an injunction to halt the project – will hurt working Americans and the economy.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that, after careful consideration, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe “had not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here,” and the pipeline project should contine.

Shortly after the decision was released, the Obama administration said it “appreciated” the court ruling but called for the project to come to a halt.

“The Obama administration just made the decision to put politics above jobs, trying to stall, obfuscate, and scapegoat in order to block this job-creating energy infrastructure project,” National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons said in a statement.

“The administration has ignored the rule of law because it doesn’t like the court’s findings that the project can move forward,” said Timmons.

“This sets a bad precedent that could threaten future infrastructure projects of all types,” he said. “For manufacturers, this means the men and women supplying steel pipe, coatings, construction equipment, compressor motors, gauges and instruments, sand and gravel and other key components to the Dakota Access project are sitting idle, without work.”

“We understand there are concerns, and above all, we want discussions about this project to be peaceful, productive and respectful,” Timmons said. “But it’s time for the administration to put its political agenda aside.”

“It’s time to put people to work, including the many manufacturers who will build the components of this project,” he said. “Let’s come together to move forward, create jobs, strengthen our economy and boost manufacturing.”

“The joint statement issued by the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior immediately after Judge Boasberg’s ruling is deeply troubling and could have a long-lasting chilling effect on private infrastructure development in the United States,” Craig Stevens, spokesman for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN), said in a statement.

“Judge Boasberg had already issued a thoughtful, thorough decision agreeing that the Army Corps had done its job and had adequately consulted with and considered Tribal concerns,” said Stevens,  “which in turn led to more than $1.4 billion in investments by Energy Transfer Partners – the pipeline construction company.”

“It is also concerning that the federal government would threaten the livelihoods of thousands of workers who rely on good governance to support a stable workplace,” Stevens said. “Based on the Administration’s actions today, these workers’ jobs are in peril.”

“Should the Administration ultimately stop this construction, it would set a horrific precedent,” he said. “No sane American company would dare expend years of effort and billions of dollars weaving through an onerous regulatory process receiving all necessary permits and agreements, only to be faced with additional regulatory impediments and be shutdown halfway through completion of its project.”

“We hope and trust that the government will base its final decision on sound science and engineering, not political winds or pressure,” Stevens said.

But the Obama administration sided with the tribe.

“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 federal agenciessaid in the joint statement.

“Therefore, this fall, we will invite tribes to formal, government-to-government consultations on two questions:  (1) within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights; and (2) should new legislation be proposed to Congress to alter that statutory framework and promote those goals,” the joint statement said.

In his ruling, Judge Boasberg said: “As it has previously mentioned, this Court does not lightly countenance any depredation of lands that hold significance to the Standing Rock Sioux. Aware of the indignities visited upon the Tribe over the last centuries, the Court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care. Having done so, the Court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here. The Court, therefore, will issue a contemporaneous Order denying the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction.”

After the statement by the Obama administration, the tribe issued its own statement.

“Our hearts are full, this an historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and for tribes across the nation,” said tribal chairman Dave Archambault II. “Our voices have been heard.”

Reuters reported that jobs are not the only segment of the economy to be affected by the Obama administration’s decision.

“With the U.S. government siding in favor of Native American protests against a key North Dakota pipeline, local oil producers and shippers are facing the possibility of greater delays in getting a quick route to ship oil to the Gulf of Mexico,” said Reuters regarding the 40-mile stretch of the pipeline through North Dakota.

“The 1,100-mile (1,770 km), $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline was originally expected to start up later this year, to deliver more than 470,000 barrels per day of crude from North Dakota’s prolific Bakken shale play through Illinois and toward refinery row in the U.S. Gulf Coast,” said Reuters.

“Should the pipeline be delayed for a substantial period, it would affect producers who had counted on demand for oil to be rapidly shipped to the U.S. Gulf, as well as shippers who could find themselves stuck with crude, putting them at risk of unloading it at a loss.”

“The primary owner of the Dakota Access pipeline is Energy Transfer Partners,” Reuters reported. “Shares of that company’s stock fell 3.6% on Friday.”

— Written by Penny Starr