- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The on-again, off-again Dakota Access pipeline appears to be on again.

Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota Republican, said Tuesday that Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer told him that the easement for the final 1,100 feet of the project in North Dakota will be approved.

“I spoke with Secretary of the Army Robert Speer, and he’s now directed the Corps of Engineers to proceed with the easement so that the Dakota Access pipeline can be completed,” Mr. Hoeven said in a Tuesday video.

The easement to run the pipeline under Lake Oahe at the Missouri River was issued in July but rescinded in December after the Obama administration came under intense pressure from pipeline foes, led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, to halt the project.

President Trump ordered last week an expedited review of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, both of which were stalled by then-President Barack Obama, but as of late Tuesday the corps had not released an official statement.

The corps published Jan. 18 a notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement [EIS] on the project. The comment period ends Feb. 20.

SEE ALSO: North Dakota wants hired pipeline protesters to pay state income taxes

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has called for rerouting the pipeline, issued a statement Tuesday saying it would “vigorously pursue legal action” if the easement is granted.

Tribal leaders have raised concerns about the impact of the proposed pipeline, which runs about a half-mile from the reservation, on their water supply.

“We have to this date received no formal notice that the EIS has been suspended or withdrawn,” said the tribe. “To abandon the EIS would amount to a wholly unexplained and arbitrary change based on the President’s personal views and, potentially, personal investments. Furthermore, the Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the preparation of the EIS and issue the easement. We stand ready to fight this.”

The Indigenous Environmental Network accused the president and his “climate denying cabinet” of “doing what is best for their business.”

“But make no mistake: we are prepared to mobilize and resist this brazen power grab,” said the anti-pipeline group in a statement.

In July, the corps issued a “notice of no significant impact” after conducting an environmental assessment of the route for the proposed oil pipeline, which would run alongside a previously installed natural-gas pipeline.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican, said the corps told Congress on Tuesday that the DAPL easement approval was “imminent.”

“It’s time to get to work and finish this important piece of energy infrastructure enhancing America’s energy security and putting North Dakotans and Americans back to work,” Mr. Cramer said in a statement. “President Trump has proven to be a man of action and I am grateful for his commitment to this and other critical infrastructure projects so vital to our nation.”

Thousands of protesters have descended on makeshift camps since August in an effort to stop the 1,172-mile, four-state pipeline, which runs almost entirely on private land and stands about 95 percent complete.

Protesters, including environmentalists affiliated with the “keep-it-in-the-ground” movement, have vowed to redouble their efforts to stop the $3.8 billion project if approved.

Protest leaders and law enforcement are working together to clear the camps as part of a clean-up effort before the spring, when melting snow is expected to flood the area.

The tribe has also asked the protesters to leave their camps, citing the environmental damage to the prairie and flood danger.

Mr. Hoeven joined Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota Democrat, in calling for federal law-enforcement resources to help with the protests. More than 600 arrests have been made since August, primarily for trespassing on private property and blocking highways and bridges.

“In addition, we continue to work with the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Corps of Engineers to secure additional law enforcement resources to work with state and local law enforcement at the site,” Mr. Hoeven said.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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