Tribal Leader Calls on Obama to Halt Pipeline Construction Before Trump Takes Office

PHOTO: Police stand guard during a stand off with protesters on a bridge during a protest of the Dakota Access pipeline on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannon Ball, North Dakota Nov. 6, 2016. PlayStephanie Keith/REUTERS
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The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has called on President Obama to "set a lasting and true legacy" by halting construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline before President-elect Donald Trump takes office next year.

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The tribe is more concerned than ever about the future of its water and lands as public records show Trump has invested up to $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, the builder of the controversial pipeline.

The exact figures of how much Trump has invested in Energy Transfer remains unclear, as he has refused to release his tax returns.

Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement that results of the presidential election "indicate that we as a country have so much work to do," and urged Obama to "set a lasting and true legacy" by halting the pipeline's construction.

"We must strengthen our resolve to protect the water, pray together for understanding, and pour our hearts and minds into the future of our children," Archambault said. "In this time of uncertainty, President Obama still has the power to give our children hope. We believe halting the Dakota Access pipeline presents a unique opportunity for President Obama to set a lasting and true legacy and respect the sovereignty and treaty rights of Standing Rock and tribal nations across America.”

PHOTO: Police use pepper spray against protestors standing in the water of a river during a protest against the building of a pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannonball, North Dakota, Nov. 2, 2016. Stephanie Keith/REUTERS
Police use pepper spray against protestors standing in the water of a river during a protest against the building of a pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannonball, North Dakota, Nov. 2, 2016.

The 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline has courted controversy for months from Native American groups and environmental activists. Hundreds of protesters have camped out near the tribe's reservation in North Dakota, arguing that construction of the pipeline threatens the local water supply and traverses culturally sacred sites.

Tensions between local law enforcement and demonstrators have become more tense in recent weeks after heavily armed police unleashed rubber bullets and pepper spray in confrontations with protesters on private land.

At a hearing yesterday, a Department of Justice spokesperson said the agency will announce its decision on "next steps" and a "path forward" for the final easement needed in order to complete construction of the pipeline, “within a matter of days.”

Archambault said in a statement: "The only possible path forward for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is a decision that denies the easement or subjects it too a full environmental impact statement and tribal consultation."

Three federal agencies, the Department of Justice, Department of Interior, and Deptartment of the Army, requested "that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe," while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reviews permits.

Dakota Access has so far disregarded the government's request to temporarily halt construction, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

In an effort to defuse tensions between law enforcement and demonstrators, "We asked Dakota Access Pipeline on Nov. 4 to honor the Administration's request for a voluntary shut down by stopping work for a 30 day period to allow for deescalation. Dakota Access did not agree to this request," John W. Henderson of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Omaha District said in a statement on Wednesday.

Today, Dakota Access said in a statement that it would suspend construction near Lake Oahe "for a reasonable time period as part of an effort to diffuse tensions and to facilitate peaceful removal of protesters from the protest site" but the Corps has repeatedly rejected that offer.

"In our view, the authority to complete construction is part and parcel of a river crossing permit which was issued by the Corps on July 25," the statement added. "We now wish to reiterate that Dakota Access shares the safety concerns of the Corps and is prepared to suspend activities at the site if Dakota Access and the Corps can agree upon a date certain upon which we can complete construction beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahe."

Law enforcement said they made 33 arrests today as tensions continue to mount in North Dakota near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's reservation. The Morton County Sheriff's Department said in a statement this afternoon that the 33 people were arrested for "creating illegal roadblocks and trespassing on private property." Demonstrators have said its their right to be on the privately held land, citing an 1851 Treaty that they say designates the land for Native American tribes.

PHOTO: Law enforcement stand in the distance as fire and thick smoke from burning tires billows at a Dakota Access Pipeline protest across Highway 1806 at the Front Line Camp in Morton County, N.D., Oct. 27, 2016. Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP
Law enforcement stand in the distance as fire and thick smoke from burning tires billows at a Dakota Access Pipeline protest across Highway 1806 at the Front Line Camp in Morton County, N.D., Oct. 27, 2016.