Twists and Turns in the Campaign to Defeat the Dakota Access Pipeline, Two Other Victories Against Pipelines Nationally

Last week, we celebrated three major movement victories in the nation-wide organizing challenging fossil fuel infrastructure. One major pipeline project was canceled, and two were shut-down–including the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which runs through parts of Illinois. Since then a court has ordered a temporary stay to allow DAPL to continue to operate, until a final ruling is made. 

The Dakota Access Pipeline received national attention starting in 2016, when the Standing Rock Sioux assembled an unprecedented coalition of 200 American Indian Tribes and countless allies who engaged in non-violent civil disobedience in North Dakota and faced-down brutal police violence. Despite the groundswell of support for honoring Indigenous treaties and prioritizing environmental stewardship, construction continued on the pipeline and operation began. 

Since then, there has been sustained opposition along the pipeline route. Here in Illinois, activists worked to oppose a plan to double the pipeline capacity in the state, challenging the Illinois Commerce Commission to reject this proposal from Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline operators.

Last week’s order to halt DAPL operations came after a lawsuit from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, contending that permits were improperly issued. The DAPL runs under Lake Oahe, a drinking water source for the Reservation. Given this, an environmental study should have been conducted prior to issuing of the permit. Since then, a court has ruled that the pipeline may operate temporarily until a more final ruling is issued. 

Meanwhile, other pipeline projects are facing defeats and obstacles across the country. The Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced that they’re canceling plans to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline after lawsuits nearly doubled the cost of the project. This natural gas pipeline would have run through parts of West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, crossing the Appalachian Trail, and disproportionately impacting the Lumbee Indian Tribe in North Carolina.

To add to the victories, the Supreme Court refused to interfere on an earlier ruling that halted the Keystone XL pipeline’s until additional permitting processes were completed to account for the pipeline crossing bodies of water. 

These long-fought victories show the power of sustained opposition through organizing, lawsuits, and more.