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Dakota Oil Line Showdown Eases as Tribe Asks Protesters to Leave

Updated on
  • Dakota Access oil pipeline stalled as Army Corps seeks review
  • ‘We have a huge victory,’ Standing Rock Sioux leader says

The head of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe called on Dakota Access oil pipeline opponents to return home after months of protests, in a bid to ease tensions at the site as winter weather arrived.  
The 1,172-mile (1,886-kilometer) pipeline, which would bring oil from North Dakota to Illinois, remains stalled after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday refused to grant a requested easement under Lake Oahe, suggesting further environmental review is needed. President-elect Donald Trump’s team has said he supports construction of the pipeline and will review the Corps decision when he takes office.

"We have a huge victory we need to celebrate," Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a video posted to Twitter. "Regardless of the new administration, they can’t overturn that 

The battle now will move to the legal front, he said in an e-mailed statement. Protesters should leave the site as a winter storm approaches and he urged opponents not to resort to any illegal actions against the project. "It’s time to go home," he said.

The pipeline, being built by Energy Transfer Partners LP to carry North Dakota shale oil to refineries along the Gulf Coast, has become the latest flashpoint for environmentalists seeking to block infrastructure projects. The chairman’s call to disperse may reduce the potential for further clashes at the site, where protesters have been camped out for months in a bid to halt completion. The federal government had called on opponents, who say the pipeline threatens water supplies, to move to a designated zone as snow moved into the region.

Dakota Access has found itself at the center of an intensifying debate over the need for new pipelines in the U.S. While the Obama administration has stalled the project, Trump supports speeding up approvals for energy infrastructure. The standoff over Dakota Access is emblematic of a broader effort by environmentalists to delay pipelines, which they say hurt the nation’s progress in reducing its reliance on fossil fuels. It has drawn intense opposition from Native Americans who say it’ll damage culturally significant sites.

Energy Transfer spokeswoman Vicki Granado didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and e-mail for comment.

Trump’s team has not specified how they’ll approach the project, but the administration is expected to approve the pipeline.

Even so, "a new administration will not easily be able to reverse Sunday’s historic decision," Archambault said in the statement.