Actions were held in hundreds of cities worldwide Tuesday to protest the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Many protests targeted the offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has so far refused to grant Energy Transfer Partners the final permit to drill underneath the Missouri River. This comes as a joint statement by the Army and the Interior Department announced they had "determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands." Meanwhile, the company wants the court to order that Energy Transfer Partners already has the right to build the Dakota Access pipeline without any further actions or permits from the Army Corps of Engineers. We get response from Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth, who helped organize the call for Tuesday’s day of action.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from COP 22. That’s the Conference of the Parties. It’s been going on for 22 years. We’re in Marrakech, Morocco. Actions have been held in hundreds of cities worldwide Tuesday to protest the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which would carry crude oil from the Bakken oilfields of North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The project has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, representatives of more than 200 indigenous nations from across the Americas, as well as thousands of non-Native allies—all fearing a pipeline spill could contaminate the Missouri River, drinking source for millions of people. The ongoing encampment in North Dakota is the largest gathering of Native Americans in decades.
In Mandan, North Dakota, at least 25 people were arrested Tuesday as hundreds blockaded a highway and access to one of the pipeline company’s construction yards. The water protectors said the protest was in honor of women who have been the victims of violence and kidnapping in North Dakota’s male-dominated oilfields.
DARLENE GEORGE: Darlene George. I’m a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band. November 15th is the National Day of Women. And, you know, it’s very important that we stand together on this issue, not only for our Earth, but for our children and our children’s children. If we keep extracting our resources as like we’re doing now, there’s not going to be anything left for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. And that is not the Native way. Our indigenous way is to protect the Earth so that we have something for our children.
AMY GOODMAN: Massive rallies were also held in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York City, where Curtis Ray Yaz of the Blackfeet Nation spoke.
CURTIS RAY YAZ: [echoed by the People’s Mic] Never mic-checked before. So let me warm up. I’m from the Blackfeet Nation. I’ve been in Standing Rock since August. And everybody asks me, "What is it like to be out there?" It’s hard. It’s cold. It’s waking up cold. It’s going to sleep cold. It’s not sleeping. They have drones over our camp, 24-hour surveillance, bugs in our tents, informants in our meetings. But what brings us forward, day and day and day and day, night after night after night after night, after being in handcuffs over and over and over, I know that they will not stop, because we are not afraid.
AMY GOODMAN: Many of Tuesday’s actions targeted the offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has so far refused to grant Energy Transfer Partners the final permit to drill underneath the Missouri River. In a joint statement by the Army and the Interior Department released Monday, the Army announced, quote, "The Army has determined that additional discussion and analysis are warranted in light of the history of the Great Sioux Nation’s dispossessions of lands," unquote. This is Army veteran Nicole Goodwin.
NICOLE GOODWIN: Today, six members of Iraq Veterans Against the War went to office of the Army Corps of Engineers in New York City asking them to stand down and stand with Standing Rock. Water is life. And the fact that this is happening to the Sioux people and other indigenous peoples around the world is a tragedy. And when will it end? It must be stopped.
AMY GOODMAN: As actions against the Dakota Access pipeline swept the country and world Tuesday, Energy Transfer Partners, which owns the pipeline, filed documents in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking to, quote, "end the Administration’s political interference in the Dakota Access Pipeline review process," unquote. The company is seeking to have the court order that Energy Transfer Partners already has the right to build the Dakota Access pipeline without any further actions or permits from the Army Corps of Engineers. In the court documents, Energy Transfer Partners said the delays to the pipeline’s completion have already cost nearly $100 million.
Well, for more, we’re joined by two guests. In New York, Tara Houska is with us, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth. She’s Ojibwe from the Couchiching First Nation. We last saw her when we were in North Dakota. Here in Marrakech, Morocco, we’re joined by Kevin Hart, the Assembly of First Nations regional chief of Manitoba. We last saw him Labor Day weekend, when he was representing his nation at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe resistance camp in North Dakota.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Tara, let’s begin with you. You’re in New York. You were leading one of the protests yesterday in New York against the Dakota Access pipeline. This is breaking news, as of yesterday, that Energy Transfer Partners, the company of Kelcy Warren, is seeking to stop the Obama administration from what he calls interfering with the building of the pipeline. And they’re saying they already have the right to build under the Missouri River. Can you respond to this suit?
TARA HOUSKA: First of all, clean drinking water is not a political issue. Clean drinking water is a right, a human right, that we should all have in the United States of America and the rest of the world. You know, to say that this is some type of interference, political interference, miscalculates what drinking water really is.
You know, this company proceeded to build a pipeline without having the permit under the river. They actually admitted it; in federal court, they stated that they thought it was just a formality. And the judge responded and said, "Well, it’s not a formality now, is it?" These companies have been acting without any—you know, any sense of needing to follow the law, needing to follow this permitting process, and just acting like everything is going to be green-lit and their interests come before the interests of the American people, including doing an environmental impact statement. That was never done for this pipeline. You know, they allege again and again that it’s so safe. Well, if it’s so safe, then do an environmental impact statement.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain that. What would an environmental impact statement involve, and why hasn’t one been done at this point? Is this what the company is most afraid of?
TARA HOUSKA: An environmental impact statement is a stringent level of environmental review. It’s the highest level of review that the federal government can put on a project, which it should on a project of this size. This is an 1,172-mile pipeline, a fracked oil pipeline, going through multiple water crossings, you know, sacred sites, all these different things that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is so concerned about and all of the people that have come to support Standing Rock are so concerned about. You know, it’s a level of review that would require cumulative impacts to be considered. So, what is this pipeline going to do to the environment? What is it going to do to the public health? Where are these sacred sites? You know, is it going to impact so many different things along the actual construction and then operation of this line?
Instead, the company used Nationwide Permit 12 and segmented the pipeline into little bitty pieces and did an environmental assessment on these, so the lowest-level environmental review. Nationwide Permit 12 is something for a small-scale infrastructure project, like a boat ramp or something like that. And that’s how they treated a pipeline, a fracked oil pipeline. It’s absolute madness and, you know, something that the company wants, because they can get their projects through faster. And they know that an environmental impact statement, if one was done, this project would never be approved.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what are you demanding right now of President Obama? I mean, they have not granted the permit for the pipeline underneath the Missouri. But you’re not just concerned about President-elect Trump. What do you want Obama to do? He’s still in power for two months.
TARA HOUSKA: Yeah, and, you know, President Obama has visited the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. He knows these people. He’s held these children. He understands, you know, Native America. He’s been out there, and knows the issues that face our communities—poverty, you know, all these different continued—you know, continued situations of Native people living in the United States that are treated disparately, have less than and are treated as less than. And so, for this project to be happening, and the largest gathering of Native Americans and the coming together of hundreds of indigenous nations, because extractive industry projects impact our communities disparately, because we know how this feels in our own communities—for him not to respond to this, and, instead, say things like, "We’re going to let it play out over the next several weeks," when Native American men, women and children are being maced and shot with rubber bullets and arrested—I just got arrested on Friday. You know, being zip-tied and thrown into a dog kennel for six hours is not something that should be happening in this country. It’s not something that, you know, should be overlooked and let to play out over several weeks. It’s an abomination. It’s a shameful moment for United States. And so, you know, President Obama needs to—