Sep 09, 2016 - 6:00pm

Obama Administration Gives Into 'Keep It In the Ground' and Blocks Dakota Access Pipeline Construction

Senior Editor, Digital Content

No sooner does a federal judge refuse a tribe’s attempt to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline does the Obama administration do exactly that. From Bloomberg:

The Obama administration said it would not allow work on federal land along the route of Energy Transfer Partners LP’s controversial crude oil pipeline, less than an hour after a judge ruled construction could proceed on the $3.8 billion project.

The Army Corps of Engineers has not yet authorized construction near Lake Oahe along the border of North and South Dakota, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement Friday. As a result, the department asked Energy Transfer to voluntarily pause building 20 miles east or west of the lake until the Corps makes a decision.

Earlier, a federal judge ruled construction could proceed on the Dakota Access Pipeline, a decision seen as a blow to critics who said the project would damage culturally significant sites and create an environmental hazard where it crosses the Missouri River.

The project likely complies with the National Historic Preservation Act, wrote U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, Friday in a memorandum accompanying his opinion. "The Tribe has not shown it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction the Court could issue," he said.

They have been completely co-opted by “Keep it in the ground” extremists.

Let me quote from the administration’s press release [emphasis mine]:

Finally, we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely.  We urge everyone involved in protest or pipeline activities to adhere to the principles of nonviolence.  Of course, anyone who commits violent or destructive acts may face criminal sanctions from federal, tribal, state, or local authorities.  The Departments of Justice and the Interior will continue to deploy resources to North Dakota to help state, local, and tribal authorities, and the communities they serve, better communicate, defuse tensions, support peaceful protest, and maintain public safety.

In recent days, we have seen thousands of demonstrators come together peacefully, with support from scores of sovereign tribal governments, to exercise their First Amendment rights and to voice heartfelt concerns about the environment and historic, sacred sites.  It is now incumbent on all of us to develop a path forward that serves the broadest public interest.

Arson is peaceful?

Throwing rocks at security guards is peaceful?

Hitting dogs is peaceful?

In August, labor unions were worried about the safety of their members working on the project and sent a letter to North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple:

We strongly encourage you to utilize the power of your office to keep our workers safe and to ensure protestors are following the letter of the law of North Dakota. While they may have a right to protest, we also have a right to do our jobs in a safe environment. Protestors who did not avail themselves of nearly two years of public discourse of the project should not be allowed to continue endangering themselves, construction workers, or law enforcement while trespassing on land legally leased to this project.

And how peaceful can a worksite be if Gov. Dalrymple to call out the National Guard to assist law enforcement?

Orwell would have a field day with those claiming violence is “peaceful.”

The Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, a business and labor coalition supporting the pipeline, rebuked the administration's decision:

Should the Administration ultimately stop this construction,  it would set a horrific precedent.  No sane American company would dare expend years of effort and billions of dollars weaving through an onerous regulatory process receiving all necessary permits and agreements, only to be faced with additional regulatory impediments and be shutdown halfway through completion of its project.

We hope and trust that the government will base its final decision on sound science and engineering, not political winds or pressure.

Public hearings were held, thorough environmental and cultural analyses were completed, and permits were approved. The process was open, but pipeline opponents didn't get their way, and took to extreme measures. And for their efforts they get rewarded.

The lesson here is simple: If you’re an anti-energy activist and can crank up people’s emotions—even if it means violence—and cause enough trouble then the Obama administration with give in.

It happened with Keystone XL pipeline, and it’s happened here.

And we wonder why it’s so hard to build anything in America anymore?

For more on this, read Rob Port's reaction at

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.