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Army Corps Of Engineers Wants Further Study Of Dakota Access Pipeline


The protests against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline are going on. Environmental groups say they've organized hundreds of direct actions to take place across the country today. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it needs more study before allowing further construction. And that has given a boost, for now, to Native Americans at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and their supporters who oppose the project. Here's more from NPR's Cheryl Corley.

CHERLY CORLEY, BYLINE: There's a lot of building going on at the camps that people opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline have set up. There are three of them, all close to the site where the pipeline would run under the Missouri River.

SACREMENTO KNOX: There's a couple of things being built here. There's a school and a kitchen being built here. And we're on the sacred stone side of the camp.

CORLEY: Sacremento Knox from Detroit is one of thousands who've come to stay on the land. And plenty here say they will remain until the Dakota Access Pipeline is dead. The nearly $4 billion pipeline will be more than 1,000 miles long, and it is billed as a cost effective and efficient way to bring crude oil in North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois to a Mississippi river port. Megan Rose MacKay, a volunteer from Denver, says the pipeline, just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, would destroy sacred historical sites and pollute nearby water supplies.

MEGAN ROSE MACKAY: We need to change this paradigm from an oil pipeline nation into moving towards green energies and stop putting our money in old ways that are not working for us anymore - old ways that are destroying the Earth.

CORLEY: Much of the line is complete in North Dakota. However, the company that's building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, had yet to receive approval for an easement to tunnel under a part of the Missouri River adjacent to the Sioux Nation's land. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior initially approved the construction project. But in a joint statement yesterday, those agencies said they want to have additional discussions with Sioux tribal leaders, a conversation which would include possible changes to the river crossings to reduce the risk of an oil spill.

Energy Transfer Partners denounced the decision in a press release, calling it a sham process motivated by politics and promised to take legal action. Company president Kelcy Warren is looking forward to the departure of the Obama administration, which has supported protection of tribal lands, and to the arrival President-elect Donald Trump.

KELCY WARREN: It's only going to get better. I mean, we - for us to preach that we support infrastructure development and yet do everything we can to block it, that doesn't feel very good to me. But I think that's going to change.

CORLEY: Pipeline opponents, like Tom Goldtooth with the Indigenous Environmental Network, want to stop the project altogether. He says the delay is not everything he and others wanted, but it is a right step.

TOM GOLDTOOTH: We see the weather that's unpredictable here. Mother Earth is saying, hey, I'm willing to work with you halfway here, and we need the human beings who created this problem here. We're consuming too much. We're addicted to energy.

CORLEY: It's not clear how long the review of the project will take. Today, though, the dispute over the pipeline will be in the spotlight again, as environmentalists and indigenous rights groups demonstrate at Federal Reserve offices, banks and a variety of other locations. Whatever the decision, Goldtooth and activists at the camps say they will stay put.

GOLDTOOTH: We're going to stay here in prayer. We're going to stay here through the winter or however long it takes. You know, we're going to hold the line here.

CORLEY: Even through North Dakota's fast-approaching, bitter-cold days. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Bismarck, N.D. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.

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