The company building the Dakota Access Pipeline blasted the US government's "purely political" decision on Sunday to reroute the controversial pipeline away from a river near a Native American reservation in North Dakota, maintaining they are still committed to building along that path.
The US Army Corps of Engineers announced Sunday they had denied an easement to build the pipeline under a section of the Missouri River that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had said would threaten water sources and desecrate sacred ground. Officials will instead conduct environmental impact reviews to determine alternate paths.
The decision was a huge victory for the local Indigenous people, as well as the thousands of supporters who had traveled to a sprawling camp on the reservation to protest against the pipeline's construction. Fireworks exploded over the Oceti Sakowin camp late Sunday in celebration.
But Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the project, said in a statement late Sunday that they were committed to ensuring there would be no re-routing.
"The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency," the company said.
"[Energy Transfer Partners is] fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional re-routing in and around Lake Oahe," the statement read. "Nothing this administration has done today changes that in any way."
The company did not specify how they expect to continue building under the river in spite of the Army Corps' announcement, but their backers have indicated they hope President-elect Donald Trump will reverse the decision when he takes office next month. Trump was financially invested in the company, but his spokeswoman Hope Hicks told BuzzFeed News that he sold off all of his shares in Energy Transfer Partners in June.
"I’m encouraged we will restore law and order next month when we get a President who will not thumb his nose at the rule of law,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, a Republican who supported the pipeline.
House Speaker Paul Ryan also said he was "looking forward to putting this anti-energy presidency behind us."
Craig Stevens, a spokesman for the pro-infrastructure MAIN Coalition, sent a statement to BuzzFeed News that denounced Sunday's decision as “a purely political decision that flies in the face of common sense and the rule of law.”
"For millions of hard-working people across the heartland, January 20 cannot come soon enough," he said.
"With President-elect Trump set to take office in just a few weeks, we are hopeful that this is not the final word on the Dakota Access Pipeline," he added.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters on Monday that the president-elect supports the construction of the pipeline, but said staff "will review the full situation when [they're] in the White House and make the appropriate determination at that time."
Environmental groups and activists praised Sunday's announcement as a significant victory for Native Americans.
“This is an important victory for Indigenous people who fought to protect the water and their rights,” Amnesty International USA spokesman Eric Ferrero said.
But Dallas Goldtooth, the lead organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, told BuzzFeed News in a statement that the future of the pipeline was not certain.
"We are asking our supporters to keep up the pressure, because while President Obama has granted us a victory today, that victory isn't guaranteed in the next administration," Goldtooth said. "More threats are likely in the year to come, and we cannot stop until this pipeline is completely and utterly defeated, and our water and climate are safe.”
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at email@example.com.
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