SISK: Sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, the new president got a lot of media attention signing a host of directives related to pipelines.
(fade in and boost cameras clicking)
TRUMP: This is with respect to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
(fade cameras clicking)
This particular memo is what many in North Dakota have been anxiously anticipating. It directs the Army to review the project in an expedited manner. Trump also asks the department to consider scrapping its plan to prepare an environmental impact statement. The Army Corps of Engineers launched that study in the final week of the Obama administration. That environmental review could be lengthy, slowing down an already stalled permit process.
The White House says it wants to sit down with all sides in the conflict to negotiate a solution. The tribe says it’s willing to meet, but it’s skeptical. Here’s Jan Hasselman on a call with reporters. He’s an attorney from Earthjustice, representing the tribe.
HASSELMAN: I don’t think there’s a lot of in between space for a compromise. They have doubled down again and again on putting a pipeline in this place.
If the federal government grants the pipeline a permit in the near future, the tribe plans to pursue legal action to force the full environmental study.
For the oil industry, that permit can’t come soon enough. Ron Ness is president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
NESS: This pipeline should be moving oil today and we’d have 2 or 3,000 less trucks on the road in western North Dakota. We’d be getting our oil to market, to a better market, more safely and reliably. And we’d be getting a better price for it.
All that’s left to complete the 1,200-mile pipeline is to connect both sides under the Missouri River.
(boost in helicopter and keep under) At the protest camp, a helicopter flies overhead. The camp is adjacent to the pipeline construction area, and the demonstrators are still under surveillance. (boost helicopter and fade under)
Pipeline security and law enforcement stake out vantage points on nearby hills. They’re watching to see what the protesters do in the wake of Trump’s move.
Crystal Houser came from Oregon and mans the camp’s exit. (fade in whooping) A group of people walk by, hollering at their friends (boost whooping and fade under). It’s a sort of rallying cry.
Houser encourages them to stay away from a nearby bridge barricaded by police. It’s blocking the protesters from accessing the pipeline’s final construction site.
HOUSER: We are not here in force. We are not going to be able to physically stop them from doing it, so all we can do is take our last stand against it and let the world see that that’s what happened, that they let this go through.
Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault says it’s time the fight switch gears. He tells reporters that protesters should abandon camp and start contacting their congressional leaders and the Trump administration.
ARCHAMBAULT: We have to get out there, and we have to make our voices be heard. The fight is now in D.C.
The population of the camps here has thinned tremendously since its peak of several thousand people this fall. The tribal council last week passed a resolution to shut the camps down. It’s concerned about violent demonstrations and the influx of people to the area that’s placed a burden on nearby reservation towns. But the tribe’s imminent priority is getting camp cleaned up before warmer temperatures hit, the snow melts and floods race through the camps that are littered with shacks, tents, cars and debris.
That, for once, has the tribe on message with the North Dakota government.
Here’s Gov. Doug Burgum.
BURGUM: We’ve got a environmental and human disaster that’s ticking away as we head toward spring flooding. Any logical person would say, let’s not make that a bigger problem.
While some protesters are leaving, others are merely moving their shelters to higher ground. And the disconnect between camp and the tribe, and the tribe and the federal government deepens.
For Inside Energy, I’m Amy Sisk.