3 Things You Need to Know About the Dakota Access Pipeline Win

by Mary Sweeters

December 5, 2016

Thank you, water protectors.

Protest at Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline in the US

© Richard Bluecloud Castaneda /

Yesterday, the Obama administration and the Army Corps of Engineers denied Dakota Access Pipeline builder Energy Transfer Partners the final permit it needs to complete the pipeline. This is a monumental victory for Indigenous rights and a huge testament to the work of the water protectors and allies who have been gathered at Standing Rock for months.

The announcement means that the Army Corps of Engineers will undertake the full environmental impact statement it should have conducted in the first place, a process that could take months. During that time, no construction on the pipeline will be permitted.

It took an incredible display of people power to get us to this point, and it will take even more to defeat the Dakota Access Pipeline for good. Here’s what we learned.

1. Peaceful, Prayerful Water Protectors Made This Possible

From the beginning, resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline was led by the Indigenous peoples who stood to lose the most from its construction. For months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe peacefully advocated for its tribal sovereignty and right to clean air and water. The strength of their movement grew to include Indigenous peoples from across the world, veterans, elected officials, and people like you and me.

They withstood violence, inhumane treatment at the hands of law enforcement, and repeated violation of their ancestral lands to rise up and protect their water and way of life in a system that had stacked the deck against them.

In response to the Army Corps’ decision, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said:

“Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision.”

2. Your Solidarity Made This Possible

Throughout this fight, when the water protectors needed you most, you were there.

You helped gather and deliver vital supplies to the camps at Standing Rock, helping them keep up the resistance into the harsh North Dakota winter. From across the country, you donated tents, sleeping bags, winter clothing, and other supplies that helped the presence at Standing Rock continue to grow into the force that it is.

You — and big names like Bernie Sanders, Mark Ruffalo, and Shaleine Woodley — showed up at massive rallies and sit-ins at Army Corps of Engineers offices, many of which led to the dialogue between Corps officials and Indigenous leaders that made this decision possible.

You put pressure on the financial institutions around the world funding the pipeline, closing your accounts, delivering letters to bank management, and rallying outside branch offices of funder Citibank to disrupt business as usual.

And finally, you made it clear to President Obama and his administration that the people would not stand for the injustices being committed at Standing Rock. You told him that you stand with the protectors, that Indigenous sovereignty and clean water are more important than fossil fuel profit, and that we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground where they belong. Hundreds of thousands of you signed petitions and called the White House — and you didn’t stop until the administration stepped in.

3. Donald Trump Wants to Undo All of It

Today we are celebrating this victory for the water protectors, but make no mistake — this fight is not over.

Undergoing an environmental impact statement is not a complete stop of the project, and the time it will take to complete that statement means it’s likely that any final decision on the pipeline would fall under President-elect Trump’s incoming administration.

Last week, Trump came out in official support of the project, surprising exactly no one as he’s personally invested in the project, a huge fan of dirty fossil fuels, and received campaign donations from Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren. Trump made sure to clarify that his support for the pipeline has “nothing to do with his personal investments,” which is not a clarification that a president-elect should even have to make.

That means that we need to keep building this movement and prepare ourselves to continue resisting alongside the water protectors. As much effort as it took to convince President Obama to step in, it’s going to take even more to rise up against a Trump administration crawling with oil billionaires and fossil fuel lobbyists.

It’s up to all of us to make sure the resounding will of the people stands and the Dakota Access Pipeline is stopped for good. Are you with us?

Mary Sweeters

By Mary Sweeters

Mary Sweeters is a Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace USA. She works to fight the undue influence of the oil industry in solidarity with communities affected by oil extraction, pollution, and climate change, and to advocate for a just transition to a clean energy economy. She is from Sonoma, California.

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