ND Gov. Applauds Pipeline Notice; Opponents Say Protest Will Continue

David Goldman/AP Photo

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is applauding the Army’s decision to allow completion of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. North Dakota’s congressional delegation is also welcoming the Army’s announcement.

But Burgum says his “top priority” remains public safety and the cleanup of an area near the pipeline route where hundreds and sometimes thousands of pipeline opponents have camped since last summer.

Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer says the move comes after months of unnecessary delay. Republican Sen. John Hoeven says the pipeline will serve the nation’s need for new energy infrastructure and is being built with “the latest safeguards.”

Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp says the Army’s announcement brings the pipeline conflict one step closer to resolution. She says it “delivers the certainty and clarity” she’s been demanding.

The Standing Rock Sioux have led the protests. The tribe through a contractor is cleaning up tons of garbage before spring flooding can wash debris into area rivers. The Army Corps of Engineers has notified remaining protesters that the government-owned land will be closed Feb. 22.

Burgum says if the area isn’t cleaned up, it could be “an ecological disaster.”

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is promising a legal battle after the Army said it’s clearing the way for completion of the Dakota Access oil pipeline. Tribal attorney Jan Hasselman says the government “will be held accountable in court.” He says the specifics of the tribe’s challenge are being worked out. A leader of Dakota Access pipeline opponents says protests will continue, despite the decision.

Phyllis Young is a leader at the encampment near Lake Oahe where hundreds and sometimes thousands of opponents have gathered since last summer. She says the Army decision to end study and allow the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River reservoir is disappointing but expected.

Young is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which worries a pipeline leak could pollute its drinking water.

She calls the anti-pipeline effort “our life struggle,” and says it will continue “however we have to do it.”

The tribe has promised to fight completion of the project in court. Dallas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners says the pipeline is safe. The Army notified Congress Tuesday it will end study of the pipeline’s disputed Missouri River crossing in North Dakota, and allow construction to proceed. Environmental groups are criticizing the Army’s decision to end study of the disputed Dakota Access pipeline.

The Army notified Congress on Tuesday that it will allow the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River in North Dakota, the last big chunk of construction. Approval could come as early as Wednesday.

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