We have a backlog of updates to report on Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). (The blog didn’t get much attention the past few days as Healing Minnesota Stories was participating in an incredibly powerful three-day Bearing Witness Retreat, an interfaith event organized by Clouds in Water Zen Center. It witnessed to Minnesota’s participation in the Native American genocide.
Here are DAPL updates from the past few days:
- As tension escalates, a court decision on the pipeline might not come until 2017
- Under freezing conditions, law enforcement uses water cannons against water protectors
- Pressure on banks financing DAPL has first success
- U.N. Human Rights expert denounces abuse of free assembly rights
- North Dakota legislators cancel annual “State of the Tribes” address amid security concerns, damaging tribal relationships
- Scores arrested nationwide in DAPL protests
- Energy Transfer Partners CEO Can’t Promise Pipeline Won’t Leak
- Water is Life: Drought kills 102 million trees in California
No DAPL Court Decision Until January, More Time for Conflict to Escalate
Energy Transfer Partners, DAPL’s owners, is pursuing the latest court challenge, trying to force the federal government to give it the needed permit to bore under the Missouri River and finish the project in North Dakota. The court challenge comes in response to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to take time for more study on the project and input from the local Native community.
MPR reports that the court decision might not come until early January.
That leaves open the possibility that a resolution to the matter might still come through federal regulators rather than the courts. But it also creates the potential for many more weeks of protests in southern North Dakota, where opponents have started digging in for winter, and millions more spent on law enforcement-related costs.
Water Cannons Used
As one example of the escalating tensions, Minnesota Public Radio reported on use of water cannons against water protectors in freezing temperatures, dipping into the low 20s. The story was headlined: Police, protesters face off at Dakota Access pipeline,
Tension flared anew on the Dakota Access pipeline as protesters tried to push past a long-blocked bridge on a state highway, only to be turned back by a line of law enforcement using water cannon and what appeared to be tear gas.
Sunday’s skirmishes began around 6 p.m. after protesters removed a burned-out truck on what’s known as the Backwater Bridge, not far from the encampment where they’ve been for weeks as they demonstrate against the pipeline. …
United Nations Human Rights Expert Criticizes Excessive Police Response to Water Protectors
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right issues a statement Nov. 15 critical of how North Dakota law enforcement as treated the Water Protectors.
The statement cites comments by Maina Kiai, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. He said law enforcement was using excessive force against protesters trying to stop an oil pipeline project which runs through land sacred to indigenous people. Tactics include rubber bullets, teargas, mace, compression grenades and bean-bag rounds. According to the statement:
The Special Rapporteur said he was concerned at the scale of arrests and the conditions in which people were being held: “Marking people with numbers and detaining them in overcrowded cages, on the bare concrete floor, without being provided with medical care, amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment.”
Kiai acknowledged reports that some DAPL opponents had used violent tactics, but said it didn’t justify the disproportionate response against mostly peaceful protestors. According to the statement:
“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is an individual right, and it cannot be taken away indiscriminately or en masse due to the violent actions of a few,” he said. “The use of violence by some protesters should not be used as a justification to nullify the peaceful assembly rights of everyone else.”
Kiai called on Energy Transfer Partners to stop all construction within 20 miles of where it plans to bore under the Missouri River. His call was endorsed by several other U.N. Special Rapporteurs.
Here is Indian County Today’s story on the statement.
First Bank Divests from DAPL
On Nov. 12, we shared a story on pressure being placed on financial institutions to pull their support of DAPL. GreeenPeace is now reporting that the largest bank in Norway is the first to divest. The story is headlined: Largest Bank in Norway Sells Its Assets in Dakota Access Pipeline:
The largest bank in Norway, DNB, has announced that it has sold its assets in the Dakota Access pipeline. The news follows the delivery of 120,000 signatures gathered by SumOfUs.org to DNB by Greenpeace Norway and others urging the bank and other financial institutions to pull finances for the project. DNB recently indicated that it is reconsidering the loan it provided, which amounts to 10 percent of the total funding.
In response to the news, Greenpeace Norway Sustainable Finance Campaigner Martin Norman said:
“It is great that DNB has sold its assets in the disputed pipeline, and it is a clear signal that it is important that people speak out when injustice is committed. We now expect DNB to also terminate its loans for the project immediately.”
North Dakota Legislators Cancel State of the Tribes Address, Harming Relationships
Citing security concerns and a strain on law enforcement resources because of the DAPL protests, a North Dakota legislative committed voted 10-3 to cancel this years tribal address, according to a Nov. 17 story in the news site Inforum. It noted:
Chairman Richard McCloud of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa called it a “dishonor” when he heard legislators canceled the address, a tradition that leaders of North Dakota’s five tribal nations have rotated in each of the past 16 legislative sessions.
The state’s heavily militarized response to DAPL, and its decision to cancel the speech, is hurting the state’s relationships with other tribes, the article said. Spirit Lake Nation Chairwoman Myra Pearson went to the Capitol in September for a meeting. A protest was going on, and she and her grandson were met by a line of law enforcement officers. She was removed and hasn’t been back.
Pearson was in line to give the next State of the Tribes address. She wanted to talk about the drug epidemic on the reservation. “We don’t have any relationship any longer with that state Capitol building,” she said.
National Day of Action Update
Last week, we wrote a blog about a protest at the St. Paul headquarters of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, part of National Day of Action to pressure the Corps to deny Energy Transfer Partners the go-ahead on pipeline boring under the Missouri River.
NBC provided an update on what happened around the country, showing how this is not just a regional issue. The story was headlined: Scores Arrested in Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Nationwide:
In Los Angeles, an estimated 1,500 protesters gathered peacefully in the financial district, while hundreds participated in a march at Daley plaza in Chicago. Sen. Bernie Sanders joined a crowd in front of the White House, and police in riot gear met protesters marching in Denver….
Over 1,500 anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protesters marched in Lower Manhattan, many holding signs and placards decrying the pipeline, and others warning of a bleak future for their cause under a Trump administration.
After the rally, approximately 39 people staged a sit-in just opposite the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ office. The group repeatedly chanted “protect our water” as dozens of police officers surrounded them threatening arrest for disorderly conduct. All were arrested, according to police.
Energy Transfer Partners CEO Can’t Promise Pipeline Won’t Leak
PBS recently interviewed Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners. The story is headlined: CEO behind Dakota Access to protesters: ‘We’re building the pipeline’ The link provides a transcript of the PBS interview. Here is a snippet with a strange quote from Warren:
“Number one, we’re not going to have a leak. I can’t promise that, of course, but that — no one would get on airplanes if they thought they were going to crash.”
Not really sure what to make of that comment, Mr. Warren. It is not reassuring. Planes crash and pipelines leak. Both can be devastating.
Major Tree Die-Off in California: Water is Life
Prolonged drought in southern California has killed 102 million trees, according to a report in the LA Times. It is another reason we should be concerned about global warming. According to the story:
“The scale of die-off in California is unprecedented in our modern history,” said Randy Moore, the forester for the region of the U.S. Forest Service that includes California. Trees are dying “at a rate much quicker than we thought.”
Scientists say five years of drought are to blame for much of the destruction. The lack of rain has put California’s trees under considerable stress, making them more susceptible to the organisms, such as beetles, that can kill them. Unusually high temperatures have added to the trees’ demand for water, exacerbating an already grim situation.