US Army Corps to grant final approve for Dakota Access pipeline

WASHINGTON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will grant the final approval needed to finish the Dakota Access Pipeline project, U.S. Senator John Hoeven and Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said on Tuesday.

However, opponents of the $3.8 billion project, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, whose reservation is adjacent to the route, claimed that Hoeven and Cramer were jumping the gun and that an environmental study underway must be completed before the permit was granted.

For months, climate activists and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe have been protesting against the completion of the line under Lake Oahe, a reservoir that is part of the Missouri River. The one-mile stretch of the 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line is the only incomplete section in North Dakota.

The project would run from the western part of the state to Patoka, Illinois, and connect to another line to move crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

RELATED: Protests escalated at Dakota Access pipeline

15 PHOTOS
Protests escalate at Dakota Access pipeline
See Gallery
Protests escalate at Dakota Access pipeline
Police confront protesters with a rubber bullet gun during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith 
A rubber bullet and a rubber bullet wound are displayed for the camera during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
A protester watches the confrontation with police from the sidelines during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Police use a water cannon to put out a fire started by protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Police use a water cannon to put out a fire started by protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Police use a water cannon to put out a fire started by protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
A protester watches the police during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
A protester gets warm by a fire during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Protesters stand off with police during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
A horse gallops through a confrontation between police and protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Police use a water cannon on protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
A protester is given medical attention during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
A protester is given medical attention during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
Police tear gas protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Hoeven said Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer had told him and Vice President Mike Pence of the move. "This will enable the company to complete the project, which can and will be built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream," Hoeven, a Republican, said in a statement.

Representatives for the Army Corps of Engineers could not be reached immediately for comment late on Tuesday. The Department of Justice declined to comment.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week allowing Energy Transfer Partners LP's Dakota Access Pipeline to go forward, after months of protests from Native American groups and climate activists pushed the administration of President Barack Obama to ask for an additional environmental review of the controversial project.

The approval would mark a bitter defeat for Native American tribes and climate activists, who successfully blocked the project earlier and vowed to fight the decision through legal action.

SEE ALSO: President Trump breaks Obama's record of most executive actions in first week

On Tuesday evening, the Standing Rock tribe said the Army could not circumvent a scheduled environmental impact study that was ordered by the outgoing Obama administration in January. "The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the EIS," they said in a statement.

The tribe said it would take legal action against the U.S. Army's reported decision to grant the final easement.

"JUMPED THE GUN"

Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice lawyer representing the tribe, told Reuters that Hoeven and Cramer "jumped the gun" by saying the easement would be granted and that the easement was not yet issued.

Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environment Network, which has been a vocal opponent of the pipeline, said on Twitter that lawmakers were "trying to incite violence" by saying the easement was granted before it was official.

There have been numerous clashes between law enforcement and protesters over the past several months, some of which have turned violent. More than 600 arrests have been made.

Heavy earth-moving equipment had been moved to the protest camp in recent days to remove abandoned tipis and cars, with the camp to be cleared out before expected flooding in March.

There were more than 10,000 people at the camp at one point, including Native Americans, climate activists and veterans. Several hundred remain.

A spokesman for Hoeven, Don Canton, said it would probably be a "matter of days rather than weeks" for the easement to be issued.

RELATED: North Dakota pipeline protests

12 PHOTOS
North Dakota pipeline protests
See Gallery
North Dakota pipeline protests
Protesters stand on heavy machinery after halting work on the Energy Transfer Partners Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen
A modified highway sign reads 'No Pipeline' near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is slated to cross the nearby Missouri River, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Native Americans ride with raised fists to a sacred burial ground that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline slated to cross the nearby Missouri River, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
People on horses are seen at the encampment September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is slated to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota to refineries in Illinois. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Phil Little Thunder Sr attends an evening gathering at an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe (DAPL), near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on September 3, 2016. The Indian reservation in North Dakota is the site of the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. Indigenous people from across the US are living in camps on the Standing Rock reservation as they protest the construction of the new oil pipeline which they fear will destroy their water supply. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Boys enjoy a later afternoon horseback ride at an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe (DAPL), near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on September 3, 2016. The Indian reservation in North Dakota is the site of the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. Indigenous people from across the US are living in camps on the Standing Rock reservation as they protest the construction of the new oil pipeline which they fear will destroy their water supply. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
The Missouri River is seen beyond an encampment September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is slated to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota to refineries in Illinois. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
People sign a teepee with words of support for protestors at an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe (DAPL), near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on September 3, 2016. The Indian reservation in North Dakota is the site of the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. Indigenous people from across the US are living in camps on the Standing Rock reservation as they protest the construction of the new oil pipeline which they fear will destroy their water supply. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Native Americans march to a burial ground sacred site that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline that is slated to cross the Missouri River nearby, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Nantinki Young of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, the head cook supervising all the kitchens poses for a photograph at an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe (DAPL), near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on September 3, 2016. The Indian reservation in North Dakota is the site of the largest gathering of Native Americans in more than 100 years. Indigenous people from across the US are living in camps on the Standing Rock reservation as they protest the construction of the new oil pipeline which they fear will destroy their water supply. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Evan Butcher of the Chippewa Tribe plays basketball with younger boys September 4, 2016 at the encampment near Cannon Ball, North Dakota where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that is slated to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of oil per day from the Bakken Oil Field in North Dakota to refineries in Illinois. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Oil producers in North Dakota are expected to benefit from a quicker route for crude oil to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp said the timeline for construction was still unknown but said she hoped Trump would provide additional law enforcement resources and funding to ensure the safe start of pipeline construction.

"We also know that with tensions high, our families, workers, and tribal communities deserve the protective resources they need to stay safe," Heitkamp said.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Eric Beech in Washington, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, David Gaffen in New York and Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Paul Tait)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.