I’ve tried to follow the events at Standing Rock pretty closely, and I’ve written about it a few times. Let me repeat what I said earlier: I think we need to build this pipeline because it is the safest way to move our oil, and it is the only pipeline project on the table right now.
Do I wish we could free ourselves from dependence on oil and not need pipelines? You bet. Someday, maybe, that will happen. But for now …
I just wish we would not put the pipeline across Lake Oahe, which is what all this fuss is about. I wish we would move it somewhere else, if for no other reason than to show some respect for our First People, who don’t want it there. All arguments aside, if they don’t want it there, that’s good enough for me. Put it somewhere else.
When I first went to Cannonball, N.D., to visit what was then a small encampment, just over a month ago, this was all so innocent. It was about protecting the Standing Rock Tribe’s water source and some sacred grounds that were about to be disturbed by construction work. That was what this was all about that summer Friday afternoon.
But as summer turned to fall and the story spread nationwide, it became more — it became about pipeline versus no pipeline. That’s unfortunate because that’s not an argument the tribe is likely to win. It can win the fight to move the pipeline, I think. But there are going to be pipelines, and there is probably going to be this pipeline.
Tribal chairman Dave Archambault II and his tribal members understand that, I think. But I fear his efforts are being overwhelmed by some people, from somewhere else, who want to argue about pipelines. If the Standing Rock Tribe’s original efforts to move the pipeline get swallowed up in the bigger movement, I fear they may lose. And that would make me sad.
I wrote 10 days ago that if the courts rule against the tribe, that the Commander–In-Chief should step in. He did. He stepped in on behalf of the Standing Rock Tribe and Chairman Archambault, not on behalf of pipeline protesters. He stepped in on behalf of Indian people who, he said, deserve thoughtful discussion about how we deal with issues on America’s reservations and in America’s Tribal chambers. Hooray for him.
But matters at hand. What do we do about the proposed crossing of Lake Oahe by the Dakota Access Pipeline? What will happen here? What should happen here?
Well, first of all, there’s still a lawsuit making its way through the court system. That is likely to take a few months.
Second, the president has asked the Corps of Engineers, the federal government’s permitting agency, to consult more closely with other federal agencies before giving the final go-ahead.
We know that at least three other federal agencies had urged the Corps not to proceed without consulting them. The president, who is the boss of all of them, took a look and said to all get together and review this whole thing and make sure the tribe is being treated fairly. That’s all. But that could take a few months too.
Lobbyists are now hard at work in Washington, pleading the pipeline’s case to the executive branch of government, instead of lawyers pleading the pipeline’s case to the judicial branch of government. I don’t know if the tribe has lobbyists, but I hope so.
Meanwhile, back here, work on the pipeline continues, distant from Lake Oahe, and that’s where the arrests were this week. And if that continues, I sense a subtle shift in support and sympathy for the tribe. North Dakotans, after all, hate environmentalists. For the most part. I hope that stops.
If the lobbying goes on for a few more weeks, and the pipeline company is unsuccessful in getting the Corps to quickly approve running that pipeline under the lake, I think the pipeline company will have to seriously consider re-routing the pipeline. I really hope that is how this plays out.
But for now, I think everyone should just shut the hell up. Maybe even go home. The Commander-In-Chief, I believe, has things well in hand. He knows exactly what he’s doing and what’s at stake here. This is part of his legacy. I think I know how he’d like this to read when it is over. If not, he wouldn’t have stepped in last week. But he did. Step in. God, I love that man.