President-elect Donald Trump said Sunday he planned to resolve the Dakota Access oil pipeline standoff “very quickly” after taking office if necessary as the action moves from the camps to the courtroom.
Protesters headed home as snow and freezing temperatures enveloped the camps near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, claiming victory in the wake of the Obama administration’s Dec. 5 decision to conduct another environmental review and explore alternate routes for the previously approved project.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg set a Jan. 31 deadline for motions after denying Energy Transfer Partner’s request Friday to force the Obama administration to approve the final 1,100-foot stretch.
Mr. Trump declined to give his opinion Sunday on the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile pipeline, although his transition team had previously indicated that he supports the project.
“Let me not answer the Dakota [question] because perhaps that’ll be solved by the time I get there, so I don’t have to create enemies on one side or the other,” Mr. Trump said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But I will tell you when I get to office, if it’s not solved, I’ll have it solved very quickly.”
Asked if he would allow the easement on the remaining stretch in North Dakota, which was blocked last week by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mr. Trump said, “I’m not saying anything.”
“I just say something will happen, and it’ll be quick,” he said. “I think it’s very unfair. So I’ll start one way or the other.”
Giving Mr. Trump some breathing room was Judge Boasberg, who saw the case return to his courtroom Friday after the company challenged the administration’s decision to delay a previously issued easement needed to run the pipeline under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe.
The judge, an Obama appointee, refused in September to grant the Standing Rock Sioux’s request to stop the pipeline, saying the tribe had failed to prove that construction would harm historic sites.
The corps granted the easement in July for the final 1,100-foot piece in North Dakota, prompting the tribe to call for protesters to join them in resisting the pipeline over concerns about water quality and cultural relics.
Organizers of the Red Warrior Camp, the most aggressive of the camps, announced Saturday that the group has left the area, but that its members would continue to oppose the pipeline and “the capitalist regime that is destroying our planet.”
“The mobilization of resistance is key to shattering the oppressive illegal military occupation of the so called ‘Amerikkkas,’ for too long we have lived with broken treaties, genocide, racism and colonization,” the Red Warrior statement said.
The camp had long faced resistance over its less-than-peaceful tactics from the Standing Rock Sioux, whose tribal council voted Nov. 1 to ask the Red Warrior group to leave.
Standing Rock Sioux chairman Dave Archambault II asked protesters to exit the area last week after the corps said it would explore ways to reroute the project.
The company has said it plans to complete the four-state pipeline, which is more than 90 percent finished, without any additional rerouting.
Mr. Archambault “has made it abundantly clear that a diversity of tactics in the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline is not respected nor wanted,” the Red Warrior statement said. “We have this to say: without the courage and the actions of those who actually put their minds, bodies, and spirits in harm’s way the pipeline would be built.”
Leaders of the Sacred Stone Camp, the largest of the enclaves, said last week some of them would remain on tribal member LaDonna Allard’s land for the winter, but discouraged others from joining them.
“Rest assured, LaDonna is not going anywhere. ‘I have not changed my mind. We stand until the black snake is dead,’ she said yesterday,” the statement noted. “But due to limited space and infrastructure, there is no longer an open call for people to come join Sacred Stone Camp unless personally invited.”