Bernie Sanders Joins Protestors By Urging Obama To Halt DAPL Construction

Credit: Jonathan Ernst via The Huffington Post
Credit: Jonathan Ernst via The Huffington Post

For months, protests have been taking place near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where a multi-billion-dollar pipeline is intended to be built. Indigenous peoples are in strong opposition to its construction, not only because the pipeline is nearly guaranteed to contaminate their only supply of fresh water in the future, but because it is to be constructed on sacred burial grounds.

Though an appeal was filed to halt its construction, a federal court dismissed the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s request for a permanent injunction on October 9th. Much to activists’ dismay, the Obama administration continues to stall on this issue, as well. Meanwhile, the departments of Justice, Interior, and the Army issued a joint statement refusing to authorize construction along part of the proposed route.

In result, the development of DAPL is at a standstill. In an effort to resolve the conflict, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders – along with four other Senate Democrats – recently penned a letter to President Barack Obama. As Common Dreams relays, they’ve called on him to suspend all construction permits for the project to order a full environmental impact statement.

“We are writing to respectfully request that you direct the Army Corps of Engineers to require a full environmental impact statement for the Lake Oahe crossing of the Dakota Access Pipeline that includes meaningful tribal consultation,” the letter reads.

The letter is published below:

Dear President Obama:

We are writing to respectfully request that you direct the Army Corps of Engineers to require a full environmental impact statement for the Lake Oahe crossing of the Dakota Access Pipeline that includes meaningful tribal consultation. In light of the decision of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to reject the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for a temporary halt to construction, the project’s current permits should be suspended and all construction stopped until a complete environmental and cultural review has been completed for the entire project.

We applaud your administration taking action to deny the authorization of construction on Army Corps-owned land and under Lake Oahe pending a review of prior decisions under the National Environmental Policy Act and government-to-government consultation with the tribes. In addition, we appreciate the administration’s decision to reassess the way the federal government incorporates tribal concerns regarding permitting decisions more broadly. This is a longstanding problem, and these efforts must bring about long overdue, meaningful change.

Unfortunately, the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, is committed to completing construction, despite a request from the U.S. Department of Justice for a temporary halt to construction around Lake Oahe.

Over the past several weeks, hundreds of Native American tribes have mobilized in unprecedented solidarity to draw attention to the pipeline’s encroachment on sacred lands. Nationally, there has been a groundswell of opposition to the project. The pipeline’s construction is not only a violation of tribal treaty rights, but has the potential to cause more damage to sacred land. Until there has been full and meaningful tribal consultation, all pipeline permits and easements should be revoked or denied.

In addition, not unlike the Keystone XL pipeline, the Dakota Access will have a significant impact on our climate. All fossil fuels infrastructure projects of this significance must be subjected to a test to consider the long-term climate impacts. As such, there must be a serious consideration of the full potential climate impacts of this pipeline prior to the Army Corps of Engineers approving any permits or easements for the Dakota Access pipeline. According to Oil Change International, the Dakota Access pipeline would have the same impact on the planet as adding 21.4 million more cars to our roads, or 30 new coal plants.

We support the tribes along the pipeline route in their fight against the Dakota Access pipeline project. It is imperative that the Corps’ permitting process be transparent and include public notice and participation, formal and meaningful tribal consultation, and adequate environmental review. Until that occurs, construction of this project must be halted.

If there is one profound lesson that indigenous people have taught us, it is that all of us as human beings are part of nature. We will not survive if we continue to destroy nature.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.


Bernard Sanders, (I-Vt.); Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.); Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.); Edward J. Markey, (D-Mass.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.)

This isn’t the first time Sanders has shown his support for DAPL protestors. On September 13, the Vermont Senator joined a Washington, D.C., protest against the pipeline while others expressed their disdain for its construction in North Dakota.

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