Spanning four states in America’s midwest, the Dakota Access Pipeline is a project aimed to transport crude oil deposits from North Dakota reserves through to Illinois storage facilities, via subsurface pipe. The construction plan outlines the need for US crude oil to be transported in fast and cost-effective ways as opposed to more risky truck-and-rail systems, which have had multiple recent failures.

American Indian tribal nations stretching from the Dakotas to Iowa stood firm in opposition to the pipeline, concerned about its impact on cultural assets as well as environmental damage to essential water supplies. Tribal nations were joined by environmentalists and landowners fearing the imposition of eminent domain laws repurposing their private land.  

July 29, 2014. Energy Transfer Partners meet with the Iowa Utilities Board to discuss subsidiary Dakota Access Pipeline LLC establishing a crude oil transportation pipeline. The utility would connect North Dakota production areas and the rapidly expanding storage facilities in Illinois, transporting more than 71 million litres of oil a day.

September 30, 2014. Sioux tribal nations officials object to the construction of the pipeline in a meeting held by Energy Transfer Partners. Concerns that it will impact sacred tribal sites and has the potential to irreparably damage their water supply are outlined.

December 1, 2014. The Dakota Access Pipeline proposal is submitted to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission pending the 3.78 billion dollar project’s approval from North Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

March 10, 2016. More than a year after submitting its pipeline project, Dakota Access LLC has the pipeline approved by Iowa’s utility board with a unanimous 3-0 vote. Iowa is the fourth and final state to greenlight construction. The company says in a statement it has secured 90% of the properties required to build the pipeline, voluntarily.

April 1, 2016. A faction of 200 Native Americans ride on horseback to Standing Rock, where the pipeline is scheduled to pass through. The region is one of historical significance for the Standing Rock Lakota Sioux Nation, marking the start of the protest’s nine-month occupation of Standing Rock.

July 27, 2016. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe files a complaint in federal court against the US Army Corps of Engineers, saying the tribe’s objections had been ignored by planners. The complaint states that the pipeline “threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance”.

October 10, 2016. The Fault in our Stars actress Shailene Woodley, along with 26 other protesters, are arrested for engaging in riot and criminal trespass at the protest site in North Dakota. Woodley livestreams the event to more than 40,000 viewers.

October 27, 2016. Tensions heighten during late October as riot police clashed with dug-in protesters at the Standing Rock site. Some 140 protesters are arrested during the altercation, which includes fiery exchanges, trucks set on fire and the use of tear gas.  

October 28, 2016. Senator Bernie Sanders joins the fray, officially requesting President Barack Obama to intervene in the Dakota Access Pipeline dispute via a press release.

November 16, 2016. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren says: “I really wish for the Standing Rock Sioux that they had engaged in discussions way before they did,” despite objections to the pipeline being made in mid-2014. Tribal officials refused to attend further meetings at the time.

December 4, 2016. Thousands celebrate as news spreads that the US Army Corps of Engineers denies Energy Transfer Partners an easement that would have allowed the pipeline to cross Lake Oahe. This will halt the pipeline’s construction under the Obama administration, but they have stated an alternative route will be found.

December 5, 2016. President-elect Donald Trump announces that he will back the pipeline. Trump spokesman Jason Miller says in a statement “that’s something that we support construction of and we’ll review the full situation when we’re in the White House”.

The future of the project and tribal reserve assets will be left up to the incumbent Trump administration, but rivals of the pipeline have vowed to defend against its completion until the bitter end.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey