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‘He’s a political prisoner’: Standing Rock activists face years in jail

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Standing Rock saved Little Feather’s life. Then the U.S. government took it from him.

Little Feather was one of thousands of Native Americans who traveled to North Dakota in 2016 to fight the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The 45-year-old member of the Chumash Nation was battling drug addiction at the time, said his wife, Leoyla Cowboy. But the “water protector” movement gave him a sense of purpose, a renewed connection to indigenous elders, and sobriety.

But last year as the oil pipeline began operations, authorities jailed him and charged him with felonies stemming from his involvement in the demonstrations. Little Feather’s case and the prosecution of hundreds of others is part of what activists say is an aggressive campaign by U.S. law enforcement to suppress indigenous and environmental movements, using drawn-out criminal cases and lengthy prison sentences.

“He has been taken from us, and it’s a huge void in our lives,” Cowboy, 44, told the Guardian in a recent interview after Little Feather, also known as Michael Giron, was sentenced to three years. “He is a political prisoner … We were protecting our land. It’s something we have to do, and we’re going to be met with this violence from these agencies, from the federal government, from the state.”

As Red Fawn Fallis prepares for her sentencing next week in the movement’s most high-profile prosecution, activists are speaking out about the toll the cases have taken — continuing to drag on and tear apart families — all as Standing Rock has almost entirely disappeared from headlines.

After Donald Trump took office and ordered expedited approval of the $3.7 billion pipeline last January, the crackdown on activists escalated. The cases stemmed from clashes with police in late 2016 when thousands gathered at Oceti Sakowin and other campsites by the pipeline, facing a highly militarized operation, brutal shows of force, mass arrests and widely condemned jail conditions.

Under Trump, who has had financial ties with the pipeline company, the U.S. Department of Justice has pressed forward with six cases against Native Americans. North Dakota prosecutors meanwhile have pursued more than 800 state cases against people at Standing Rock, including 165 still pending, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective, a legal support team.

“They needed these convictions to make examples of people,” said Rattler, another federal defendant who, like Little Feather, agreed to a plea deal. “We got their attention, and they are scared of us.”

Rattler, a Lakota Oglala man, and Little Feather were each charged with two felonies — civil disorder and use of fire to commit a felony — related to a standoff on Oct. 27, 2016, when police deployed pepper spray and armored vehicles in response to a roadblock set up by activists. More than 140 people were arrested.

The arson charges related to the fact that “several fires were set by unidentified protesters” to thwart police, as prosecutors wrote in one court filing.

If the men were convicted, they faced a mandatory minimum of 10 years. Activists argued the charges were excessive, and some thought the men would prevail in a courtroom, especially considering reporting by the Intercept, which uncovered how a private security firm had used military-style counter-terrorism methods to target and infiltrate the protests.

But the defendants and their attorneys ultimately had concerns about the risks of a trial. One survey of jury-eligible locals found that 82 percent to 94 percent had prejudged protesters as guilty or were biased against them.

“Having a fair trial in Bismarck was going to be impossible,” said Rattler, 45, whose legal name is Michael Markus. “If you go to court in North Dakota, you are going to get convicted.”

Wasté Win Young, a Standing Rock member who is still facing trespassing and rioting charges in North Dakota court, said she was now regularly targeted and racially profiled by locals and police in the area.

“It’s just surreal still living here,” she said, noting that the fossil fuel industry had a lot of influence in the area and that there was heavy local bias against the demonstrations. “They feel like their security, their well-being was threatened by the so-called violent protesters, which was not the case at all.”

Still, Young said she was not afraid to go to court: “I stood my ground and it was in honor of my ancestors and to protect their way of life.”

Red Fawn Fallis was originally accused of shooting at law enforcement, facing a potential life sentence. The case moved forward even after it was reported that a paid informant for the FBI had developed a romantic relationship with her during the protests and was the owner of the gun she allegedly fired. Prosecutors eventually dropped the charge in exchange for her pleading to lesser offenses, and on Monday, she is expected to receive a seven-year prison sentence.

The U.S. attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Rattler, who is expected to get three years in prison, said the pending case meant he was restricted from freely traveling to indigenous ceremonies and other events.

“That’s been going on for hundreds of years — the federal government telling indigenous people where they can and can’t go,” said Ollie, Rattler’s partner who requested not to use her full name. “They do it just because they can.”

Sandra Freeman, Rattler’s attorney, said it had been difficult coming to terms with the reality of his plea agreement: “He is someone who is a really gentle, non-violent person who has accepted significant, significant time in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”

Despite everything, Rattler said he was glad he was involved in the movement and wanted to eventually continue the work: “I have no regrets about what I did.”

After Little Feather’s personal transformation at the Standing Rock camps, Cowboy said she was eager to start their lives together: “I have been praying for a person like Little Feather all my life.”

But her husband has been incarcerated since last March when police pulled them over and arrested him while the newlyweds were traveling to an indigenous march in Washington D.C.

With sentencing over, there was some relief in knowing he would eventually come home, Cowboy said. But she also recognized that there would be lasting consequences.

While she was inspired to see the momentum from Standing Rock spread to other fights, she said, it sometimes felt like those still suffering from the North Dakota movement had been left behind. “They are forgetting that we are still here.”

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‘He’s a political prisoner’: Standing Rock activists face years in jail

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On the 3-month anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the GOP tax bill plunges Puerto Rico deeper into poverty.

For a country that already imports 99 percent of its oil, France’s decision to end all new oil development and phase out existing projects by 2040 may not seem all that meaningful. The Guardian called it a “largely symbolic gesture.”

But actually, as geoscientist Erik Klemetti noted, France is committing to keeping a massive oil reservoir in the ground. The Paris Basin, a region in northern France, may contain nearly as much underground petroleum as the huge Bakken Formation in North Dakota. Extracting that oil and gas would require extensive fracking.

Klemetti calculates that France could extract 100 years worth of oil for the country by fully exploring the Paris Basin — which could contain, according to the top estimate, 5 billion barrels of oil. At current oil prices (around $58 per barrel), that’s worth about $290 billion.

Instead, France decided to say au revoir to oil and gas altogether.

Earlier this year, the country also announced it would ban internal combustion engines by 2040. With decisions like these, France is positioning itself on the right side of history. And it’s sending a message to a world that’s floundering on climate change: A more just and prosperous future is possible, and it doesn’t require the dirty fuels of the past.

Excerpt from – 

On the 3-month anniversary of Hurricane Maria, the GOP tax bill plunges Puerto Rico deeper into poverty.

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‘Flash drought’ could devastate half the High Plains wheat harvest

It’s peak hurricane season, but the nation’s worst weather disaster right now is raging on the High Plains.

An intense drought has quickly gripped much of the Dakotas and parts of Montana this summer, catching farmers and ranchers off-guard. The multi-agency U.S. Drought Monitor recently upgraded the drought to “exceptional,” its highest severity level, matching the intensity of the California drought at its peak.

The Associated Press says the dry conditions are “laying waste to crops and searing pasture and hay land” in America’s new wheat belt, with some longtime farmers and ranchers calling it the worst of their lifetimes. Unfortunately, this kind of came-out-of-nowhere drought could become a lot less rare in the future.

“The damage and the destruction is just unimaginable,” Montana resident Sarah Swanson told Grist. “It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in decades.”

Rainfall across the affected region has been less than half of normal since late April, when this year’s growing season began. In parts of Montana’s Missouri River basin, which is the drought’s epicenter, rainfall has been less than a quarter of normal — which equals the driest growing season in recorded history for some communities.

“It’s devastating,” says Tanja Fransen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s office in Glasgow, Montana. Just six years removed from 2011, one of the region’s wettest years on record, eastern Montana is now enduring one of its driest.

“We’re at the bottom of the barrel,” Fransen says. “For many areas, it’s the worst we’ve seen in 100 years.”

In a matter of weeks, the area of Montana in drought conditions has expanded eightfold.U.S. Drought Monitor

Wheat production worries

The drought already has far-reaching effects. In eastern Montana, America’s current-largest wildfire continues to smolder; the 422-square-mile Lodgepole complex fire is one-third the size of Rhode Island. It’s Montana’s largest fire since 1910.

Across the state, 17 other large fires are also spreading. “We haven’t even hit our normal peak fire season yet,” Fransen says.

Recently, as the climate has warmed and crop suitability has shifted, the Dakotas and Montana have surpassed Kansas as the most important wheat-growing region in the country. The High Plains is now a supplier of staple grain for the entire world. According to recent field surveys, more than half of this year’s harvest may already be lost.

The economic impact of the drought and related fires may exceed $1 billion across the multi-state region by the time the rains return. Donations of hay for beleaguered farmers and ranchers have come in from as far away as West Virginia.

Farmers in the region are also worried because the Trump administration has targeted a key federal crop insurance program for hefty cuts. The governors of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana have all declared states of emergency to speed aid and open some normally protected areas for livestock grazing.

Abnormally dry conditions now cover 100 percent of South Dakota.U.S. Drought Monitor

It came out of nowhere

Droughts are often thought of as creeping, slow-motion disasters. They usually don’t grab headlines like hurricane landfalls, even though they represent the costliest weather-related catastrophe worldwide.

But this drought is an anomaly, a “flash drought.” It essentially came from nowhere. It didn’t exist just three months ago.

The frequency of these rapid-onset droughts is expected to increase as the planet warms. A recent study focusing on China found that flash droughts more than doubled in frequency there between 1979 and 2010.

Droughts like these are closely linked to climate change. As temperatures rise, abnormally dry conditions across the western United States are already becoming more common and more intense. And as evaporation rates speed up, rainfall becomes more erratic, and spring snowmelt dries up earlier each year.

Future summers in North Dakota are expected to be even hotter and drier, on par with the present-day weather of south Texas.

Taking heavy losses

On Whitney Klasna’s ranch in Lambert, Montana, the spring rains “just didn’t come this year.” Klasna has already seen 60 to 80 percent crop losses in her fields, and now she’s making calculations about which of her cattle she can afford to save. She and her crew are working to drill an additional water well and install a pipeline to keep as many alive as possible.

Now they’re worried that, if the rains do come, they’ll lead to flash flooding; the ground has essentially been transformed into concrete.

Klasna calls the drought a “perfect storm of bad luck” and expects its impacts to last for years.

The drought in western North Dakota is now just as severe as California’s was at its peak.U.S. Drought Monitor

Further west, near where the Lodgepole complex is burning, Sarah Swanson runs a John Deere dealership, one of the biggest businesses in her community. She hears heartbreaking stories from across the region, with many farmers and ranchers working together to fight the fire with their own equipment.

“Right now, I don’t think anybody has time to feel scared,” Swanson says. “I think the emotions will probably start once they have time to get the fire out in a week or two.”

Last week, Swanson wrote a personal letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a Montana native, asking him to ease grazing restrictions on a nearby wildlife refuge. Two days later, he did so.

“We’ll be able to continue on,” Swanson says. “I wish I could say that for all the Main Street businesses in eastern Montana, but I don’t think I can. The effects are already being felt by restaurants and retail shops and gas stations, and there will be some that can’t sustain this.”

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‘Flash drought’ could devastate half the High Plains wheat harvest

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Innovation, not scarcity, could bring us peak oil as soon as 2020.

The acting secretary of the Army has reportedly ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a critical easement that would allow the pipeline to be built underneath Lake Oahe, the primary source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a proponent of the pipeline, announced the news Tuesday night.

The easement, which could come within days, would clear the way for construction of the last major segment of the pipeline. A week ago, President Trump called for the Army Corps to move quickly toward approval of the easement.

This is the same easement the Obama administration declined to issue in December. At that time, the Army Corps ordered an environmental impact statement (EIS) to be conducted for the project, a process that could take years, granting the water protectors a small but important victory. It’s not clear whether the Army Corps now has the authority to simply stop the EIS process.

“If and when the easement is granted, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will vigorously pursue legal action,” the tribe said in a statement. “To abandon the EIS would amount to a wholly unexplained and arbitrary change based on the President’s personal views and, potentially, personal investments.”

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Innovation, not scarcity, could bring us peak oil as soon as 2020.

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In a win for Standing Rock, Seattle just moved to dump Wells Fargo.

The acting secretary of the Army has reportedly ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to issue a critical easement that would allow the pipeline to be built underneath Lake Oahe, the primary source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, a proponent of the pipeline, announced the news Tuesday night.

The easement, which could come within days, would clear the way for construction of the last major segment of the pipeline. A week ago, President Trump called for the Army Corps to move quickly toward approval of the easement.

This is the same easement the Obama administration declined to issue in December. At that time, the Army Corps ordered an environmental impact statement (EIS) to be conducted for the project, a process that could take years, granting the water protectors a small but important victory. It’s not clear whether the Army Corps now has the authority to simply stop the EIS process.

“If and when the easement is granted, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will vigorously pursue legal action,” the tribe said in a statement. “To abandon the EIS would amount to a wholly unexplained and arbitrary change based on the President’s personal views and, potentially, personal investments.”

Excerpt from – 

In a win for Standing Rock, Seattle just moved to dump Wells Fargo.

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Pipeline spills 176,000 gallons 150 miles from Standing Rock.

Nearly 684 institutions and 60,000 people representing $5 trillion globally have committed to divestment from fossil fuels in the last 15 months, according to a report out today from Arabella Advisors, a B-corporation that focuses on “effective philanthropy.”

Trump’s election could, if anything, have an unintended effect on environmental activists’ divestment campaign. What began largely as a grassroots effort on college campuses has grown into a global movement that’s reached South Africa, Japan, and Australia in the year since the Paris climate conference.

The difference today is that Arabella finds divestment is gaining ground for more than just moral reasons: “Now, diverse legal scholars, businesses, and investors are warning that fiduciaries who fail to consider climate change risks in their investment analyses and decisions may be at risk of breaching their legal duty as fiduciaries.”

Trump’s recent selection of a climate-denying cabinet further demonstrates most environmental progress in the next few years will be locally driven.

Lindsay Meiman of the activist group 350.org told Grist that divestment has provided “a really powerful on-ramp” to climate activism. “In the face of intensifying climate impacts, and regressive and anti-climate governments like the Trump administration, it’s more critical than ever that our institutions — especially at the local level — step up to break free from fossil fuel companies,” added 350’s May Boeve.

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Pipeline spills 176,000 gallons 150 miles from Standing Rock.

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The Standing Rock Sioux will be ready to take a Trump challenge to courts

In the wake of the Obama administration’s surprise decision to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, company reps seem confident they need only wait for President-elect Trump to keep building. But the lawyer who represents the Standing Rock Sioux says it won’t be so easy to overcome the legal hurdles.

“If an agency decides that a full environmental review is necessary, it can’t just change its mind with a stroke of a pen a few weeks later,” EarthJustice attorney Jan Hasselman told Grist. “That would be violation of the law, and it’s the kind of thing that a court would be called upon to review. It doesn’t mean they’re not going to try.”

Trump could force the pipeline through along the dispute route at Lake Oahe. He technically could ignore the Corps’ decision to fulfill a public Environmental Impact Statement with his newfound executive powers, but that might not be wise.

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“He could in the sense that you can rob a bank, but you’d get in trouble,” Hasselman said.

If that were the case, Standing Rock would be prepared to take the matter to courts again, their lawyer told Grist.

“Circumventing the environmental assessment now that the agency has determined it’s the right course of action shouldn’t pass muster under legal standards,” he added.

For example, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that federal agencies can’t just flip on a dime on settled rulemaking that is based on facts because a new administration has taken over. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up the case, leaving the Circuit’s decision standing that the Bush administration couldn’t exempt the Tongass rainforest in Alaska from a conservation rule, when the agency’s fact-finding found otherwise.

Unless a conservative Supreme Court reverses course, then Standing Rock still has that advantage in a Trump era.

Going further to weaken environmental regulations overall would require a more robust change to the law with congressional action. With the law on their side for now, environmental justice advocates could challenge administration decisions just as they did in the Bush administration. (Talk about government interference: Trump is reportedly also considering privatizing oil-rich Native American land to boost oil companies.)

Energy Transfer Partners has its share of options, too — even if Trump didn’t reverse the decision, it could still sue to maintain the current route.

One of the surer bets on what’s next is that the company is going to have to wait longer to build its pipeline than it originally intended. Energy Transfer Partners wanted it to be operational by the end of the year. If the Corps decision holds, it could potentially be tied up as long as a year or two. It would have to undergo a full environmental assessment of route alternatives, which is the traditional way government agencies solicit input from the public and weigh the pros and cons of environmentally risky projects.

The pipeline is far from dead. But it’s also far from a sure thing.

Excerpt from – 

The Standing Rock Sioux will be ready to take a Trump challenge to courts

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How Did Police From All Over the Country End Up at Standing Rock?

Mother Jones

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When protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation began in April, there were only a handful of activists camping out in defiance of the Dakota Access Pipeline project. As their numbers have grown into the thousands, so too has the police presence confronting them. Police departments from 24 counties and 16 cities in 10 different states (including North Dakota) have poured into Standing Rock, according to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, the local law enforcement agency.

It’s rare for police forces to cross state lines to handle problems in neighboring places, much less travel more than 1,500 miles to respond to protests, as the St. Charles Parish (Louisiana) Sheriff’s Department has. So why is Standing Rock teeming with cops from across the country? The answer lies in an obscure federal law that’s usually deployed to help states deal with environmental disasters.

In 1996, then-President Bill Clinton signed the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). The statute was created in response to Hurricane Andrew, which wrought an estimated $25 billion in damages when it hit Louisiana and Florida in 1992, necessitating large-scale, interstate relief coordination. EMAC, an agreement eventually entered into by all 50 states, allows for states to share resources and coordinate emergency personnel in case of a crisis. The good-neighbor style law was invoked for disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and, more recently, Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Governors have almost always employed EMAC in the wake of natural disasters, but the bill contains a stipulation that makes it applicable during other types of emergencies including “community disorders, insurgency, or enemy attack.” On August 19, when North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency at Standing Rock, he relied on this language to issue an EMAC request.

Standing Rock is one of the few times that EMAC has been called upon to respond to social activism. In April 2015, during Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and sent out an EMAC request. About three hundred state troopers from Pennsylvania and another 150 from New Jersey responded. The city racked up an estimated $20 million in extra policing costs.

Since the state issuing the EMAC request is on hook for the tab, that means North Dakota taxpayers will pay for the out-of-state officers at Standing Rock. This will include wages, overtime costs, meals, lodging, and mileage reimbursement. On November 2, North Dakota officials agreed to borrow $4 million to cover escalating policing costs and extend the state’s line of credit for emergency law enforcement to $10 million. (The state was already staring down a $1 billion revenue shortfall in 2016.) Governor Jack Dalrymple said state officials have asked for contributions from the federal government, the pipeline company, “and any entity we can think of,” though the federal government has thus far declined to pitch in. North Dakota Emergency Services spokesperson Cecily Fong told the Associated Press that total state law enforcement costs for the protests had reached $10.9 million as of November 22, while Morton County had spent an additional $8 million. Meanwhile, local courts and jails have struggled to process around 575 arrests.

The increased law enforcement presence at Standing Rock has coincided with mounting concerns over police brutality. The deployment of military-grade equipment, including landmine-resistant trucks and armored personnel carriers, as well as the use of pepper spray, rubber bullets, and alleged strip searches led Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault II to ask the Justice Department to investigate civil rights abuses. “Local and state law enforcement have increasingly taken steps to militarize their presence, to intimidate participants who are lawfully expressing their views, and to escalate tensions and promote fear,” Archambault wrote in his letter.

Some of the police details that have arrived in Standing Rock are among the largest recipients of military transfers from the federal government, according to an In These Times investigation. The South Dakota Highway Patrol has received $2 million worth of military equipment since 2006. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office in Northwest Indiana obtained $1.5 million worth of military equipment over the same time period. The Pennington County Sheriff’s office in South Dakota, the Anoka County Sheriff’s office in Minnesota, and the Griffith Indiana Police Department have all received assault rifles through military equipment transfer programs as well.

Police departments answer EMAC requests on a voluntary basis. Some forces, like Minnesota’s Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, have been deployed to North Dakota amid objections from their local communities. Others are withdrawing from the action. A phone-banking and email-writing effort led Montana’s Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin to turn his detail around before they even arrived at Standing Rock. Gootkin told Yes Magazine that people who contacted his department expressed concern that EMAC was meant to address natural disasters and catastrophic events, not for protecting a corporation’s pipeline construction. Sheriff Dave Mahoney from Wisconsin’s Dane County, who withdrew his force after one week, said he did so after talking with “a wide cross-section of the community who all share the opinion that our deputies should not be involved in this situation,” he said. “We have enough priorities here in our community to address.”

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How Did Police From All Over the Country End Up at Standing Rock?

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Meet one young woman who took up the fight at Standing Rock

Protests are taking place across the country today at the offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as activists seek to convince the agency to reject the Dakota Access Pipeline. Late last night, the Corps announced that it was still consulting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe about the pipeline and its route, and that while it did so, construction near or under the Missouri River was explicitly not allowed.

Among the tens of thousands of people who have joined this now historic struggle to protect the water and land of the Sioux is one young woman I met in North Dakota on Nov. 5 at Oceti Sakowin, the main camp of the self-described “water protectors.” In our talk, she revealed deep convictions and sacrifices that she has made as part of this effort, which she is in for the long haul. I found her story emblematic of the larger movement, and instructive as to why it has had such remarkable reach and staying power.

Rana is a diminutive 26-year-old from Chicago, with brown skin, brown hair, and gentle yet wary brown eyes. She is a descendent of the P’urhépecha indigenous people of Mexico. When we met, she was trying (unsuccessfully) to retrieve items taken by police during a now-infamous Oct. 27 raid that resulted in the forcible removal of two water protector camps that had been located directly on top of the Dakota Access Pipeline route.

Antonia Juhasz

Several days after the raid, police used a large dump truck to deposit hundreds of confiscated tents, sleeping bags, and personal items into a giant pile on the side of the road south of camp. Many people, including Rana, reported that belongings had been urinated on, and some said they even saw human feces. Many of the returned items were subsequently burned.

When we talk, Rana is nervous. She is new to activism and has never been interviewed before. She’s worried that she’ll be inarticulate and “sound like a dunce,” but even more fearful for her safety. She remains on the frontlines in North Dakota and does not want either her last name or photo published. (Police have been rumored to target those identified in the press). Grist independently confirmed her identity. This interview with her has been edited for length.

On Sept. 3, Dakota Access began to bulldoze an area that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe identified as a sacred burial ground of cultural and spiritual significance. Private security guards used dogs and pepper spray in a violent confrontation with water protectors captured by Democracy Now!

After the skirmish, a small group returned to the area to establish a makeshift camp on either side of Highway 1806, directly on land Dakota Access was preparing to excavate. Dubbed “Sacred Ground Camp” (also referred to as “Front-Line” or “Treaty Camp”), Rana had been there for over two weeks when a larger group of water protectors arrived. Four days later, on Oct. 27, a militarized police force raided and eviscerated the camp.*

Antonia Juhasz

Q. What motivated you to be a part of this and to be at the riskiest location?

A. This pipeline stops in Illinois, which is my home. It’s an issue that we have in our backyard as well. I don’t think that a lot of people really grasp that concept. It’s the water that we shower with, that we brew our coffee with, that we brush our teeth with, that we cook with — everything that’s at stake.

Also, the fact that this is an indigenous-led movement, and I myself am indigenous.

Water is our first medicine. It should never be at stake, never be tampered with. When we carry our children in our wombs, they are protected by water, so water is life. You have these greedy corporations who will do anything to protect their money and oil, so when you have all that invested against you, we have to come out and help the earth as water protectors.

Q. What was the day of the Oct. 27 raid like for you?

A. It was heartbreaking. It was infuriating. I wasn’t there from the beginning, but my friends and my companion were. They worked so hard for everything they had there. It wasn’t a big camp, but they put their all into it, their own funds, their own sweat. Of course with the donations of people, as well.

They established that camp for the sole purpose of protecting those sacred grounds so the pipeline wouldn’t go through. We were caught off guard. Then we saw the police coming closer and closer. In that moment, it was a war zone. I was so focused on staying right there on the front line, holding the front line, and helping everyone with whatever I could. They poked through our tents and they instantly fell to the ground. That’s how they left them as they moved forward.

It’s sad. I think of the police: “How can you do these things? How can you be such a lost soul?” I can only hope that they find their way. I’ve heard of officers turning in their badges. And so that says a lot.

I had some really sacred items with me. I had a shawl that my auntie gave my grandma and my grandma gave to my mother when she was carrying my little brother in her womb. My mother gave it to me, and I was supposed to carry my children in that … They took that. That really hurts … I feel like I broke a sacred knot …

Antonia Juhasz

Q.What was it like for you after Oct. 27?

A. After the raid, a lot of us are experiencing PTSD. There was a lot of division. You could feel it. Everyone going up against each other. But now, it seems like it’s coming together again.

And now I know that we’re not going to go home. We’re not going to go anywhere until we stop this pipeline. We have a duty and it must be fulfilled. We’re just as motivated as DAPL is, you know. We’re watching them watch us, watch us, watch them. They can’t break our spirits — at the end of the day, they’re not stronger than us. We have love, we have culture, we have roots. They’re lost. The creator and the ancestors are with us — it’s a strong presence that we feel. We’re going to win this because I see people’s commitment. I for one left my job and my home.

Q.What was the job that you left to come here?

A. I was a nanny. I’m new to activism. But I knew there was always something that I wanted to do for this earth. I knew that I had that calling. I don’t have any children, so I said, “What am I doing here? There’s a battle to be fought over there! If I’ve ever called myself a warrior, this is the time to show who I am!” I’m honored to be here. To be part of history.

I want to have children one day. They deserve to be carried in a womb that’s safe and healthy for them. And, if they were to ask me, “Hey Mom, you were present during the Dakota Access pipeline, what did you do about it?” I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye and say, “I didn’t do anything.” That would be shameful. Not a lot of people have the ability to just get up and go. I’m blessed to have that opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let it go. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve never experienced a North Dakota winter, but we’ll make it through. Our ancestors made it, one way or another. We’re going to make it. I have faith.

I’m not gonna lie. Before I came here, I was a bit terrified. I had a lot of mixed emotions. But once you get here, it all kind of just dissolves, and that empowerment takes over you and you really know why you’re here. There’s no other place I would rather be today.

*This paragraph was updated to clarify information regarding the establishment of the camp.

Antonia Juhasz writes about oil. You will find her stories in many publications, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Harper’s Magazine, and The Nation. She is the author of three books, most recently, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

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Meet one young woman who took up the fight at Standing Rock

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Trump’s victory could be a big win for the Dakota Access Pipeline, but opponents stand strong

The sound had not been heard in over 150 years. Rising over the remote plains of North Dakota, below a hot November sun and cloudless blue sky, the drums and song of the seven bands of the Sioux nation joined together as tribal elders lit the peta waken (sacred fire) for the first time since Abe Lincoln was President. They were surrounded by some 800 Native Americans and their allies, including women, toddlers, and the elderly, standing silently in a wide circle five people deep, heads bowed in prayer.

“The climate is already at a point of no return,” intoned Lakota Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of the Sioux Nation, from within the circle. “Our waters are polluted by fracking … We must stop this contamination.”

“We are supposed to stop this snake,” Jon Eagle of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in reference to the nearby Dakota Access Pipeline. “We’ve already defeated them; they just don’t know it yet.”

The ceremony was held last weekend to bring renewed unity, grounding, and prayer to the “water protectors,” as they call themselves, gathered together on this windswept grassy field amidst tipis, tents, and morning camp fires at the Oceti Sakowin camp. It is the largest of three makeshift camps erected over the past seven months by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies near — and at times on top of — the Dakota Access Pipeline route. The 1,200-mile pipeline would carry fracked oil from the Bakken shale regions of North Dakota to Illinois and on to the Gulf Coast, passing half a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation through areas of tribal spiritual and cultural significance, including under the Missouri River: the primary drinking water source for the tribe and millions of other people downstream.

Barely one week earlier, the water protectors had a pitched battle for territory on which the pipeline was set to pass, including a sacred tribal burial ground. On a hilltop to the north, just behind those gathered for the ceremony, several pieces of bright yellow construction equipment loomed. Dakota Access Pipeline’s operations were actively underway.

Dakota Access Pipeline equipment is seen at the Missouri River near Standing Rock.Reuters / Stephanie Keith

The struggle to stop the pipeline has pitted the water protectors against an increasingly militarized and aggressive police force, with the camps currently under what can only be described as a siege. Floodlights, erected either by Dakota Access or the police (or both), sit atop a hill focused down on Oceti Sakowin, shining all throughout the night, every night. Law enforcement and private security surveillance drones, helicopters, and planes constantly buzz low in circles just overhead.

Highway 1806, leading from the camp to the pipeline and a main artery of rural North Dakota, is blockaded by law enforcement and the burned carcasses of two large trucks. Armored Humvees, often with snipers in their turrets, are a frequent sight. And there is the clear and ever-present danger that if protectors try to get near the pipeline, they will be repelled with extreme measures, including but not limited to: pepper spray, rubber bullets, batons, arrests, and jail. Though these measures have not stopped the protectors — rather, they seem to have strengthened both their numbers and resolve — they have succeeded in facilitating the continued progress of the pipeline construction.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, said on Thursday that 84 percent of the entire project is complete. It has excavated and is laying pipe nearly up to, and on both sides of, the Missouri River, where just one area remains untouched: that which passes under the river.

In September, the Obama administration denied Energy Transfer Partners the easement it needs to build under the Missouri River in order to give the Army Corp of Engineers time to review the safety and advisability of doing so. The administration asked that during that review, the company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of the river.

The company flatly refused.

On Nov. 4 and again on Thursday, the Army Corps asked Energy Transfer Partners to voluntarily stop work “for a 30-day period to allow for de-escalation,” citing concern “for the safety of all the people involved with the continued demonstrations.” Each time, Energy Transfer Partners refused.

On Sunday, the Norwegian bank DNB, which represents 10 percent of the financing required to build the pipeline, announced that it would consider pulling its support if concerns raised by the Native Americans were not addressed.

Energy Transfer Partners kept building.

Two days later, Citibank, representing 20 percent of the financing, released a statement citing its own “commitment to sustainability and respect for human rights” and advocating for “constructive engagement with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in an effort to come to a resolution.”

Dakota Access not only kept building, but released its own statement on Election Day. “To be clear, Dakota Access Pipeline has not voluntarily agreed to halt construction of the pipeline in North Dakota,” it said. Rather, it would be moving horizontal drilling equipment into place in preparation for tunneling under the Missouri River, expecting “no significant delays in its plans to drill under the lake.”

In an interview last week, President Obama said that the Army Corps of Engineers was exploring ways to “reroute” the pipeline around Native American lands.

Asked about Obama’s comments, pipeline spokesperson Vicki Granado told the Guardian: “We are not aware that any consideration is being given to a reroute, and we remain confident we will receive our easement in a timely fashion.”

Donald Trump was elected president of the United States on Tuesday. The next day, the stock value of Energy Transfer Partners’ parent company rose by 15 percent, as “investors now expect the pipeline to proceed,” Barron’s reported.

“I do expect Trump to approve it,” said Ron Ness, head of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, an industry trade group.

“Dakota Access went from being in some doubt to being a solid bet with this election,” Ethan Bellamy, a senior financial analyst, said.

Much of this confidence is on solid footing.

Trump has between $500,000 and $1 million personally invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1 million holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25 percent stake in the Dakota Access project once completed.

Kelcy Warren, chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, donated $103,000 to elect Trump and $66,800 to the Republican National Committee since Trump became the party nominee.

Many of Trump’s campaign advisors and likely cabinet, moreover, are drawn directly from the ranks of companies involved and invested in the pipeline and in Bakken oil development. Together, they will form one of America’s most fossil-fuel-centric administrations since Warren B. Harding; perhaps even more so than that of George W. Bush. There are fossil fuel company executives, investors, rabid industry cheerleaders, and notorious climate change deniers. Trump has pledged to dramatically increase fossil fuel production from every nook and cranny of the United States, particularly the Bakken shale region.

“Fracking king” Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, was Trump’s campaign energy advisor and has long been seen as a leading candidate for energy secretary. Continental Resources’ Bakken oil will be carried via the completed Dakota Access Pipeline, according to its November update to investors.

Trump campaign advisor John Paulson — president and CEO of Paulson & Co. and “one of the titans of the U.S. hedge fund industry,” managing some $14 billion — is heavily invested in the U.S. oil and gas industry, particularly in the Bakken. After becoming the largest shareholder in Whiting Petroleum in 2013, Paulson surpassed Hamm to become the largest producer of oil in North Dakota before selling off his entire Whiting holdings earlier this year. Paulson’s continued investments in the sector include Oasis Petroleum, renowned for its role in the single worst accident in Bakken history, involving a blowout, explosion, two worker deaths, and a worker suicide.

Oasis is working to complete a 19-mile oil transmission system from its North Dakota petroleum handling facility to the Dakota Access Pipeline, thus positioning it to supply roughly one-ninth of the pipeline’s estimated 470,000 barrels of daily crude oil deliveries, records from the North Dakota Public Service Commission show.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is seen near New Salem, North Dakota.Tony Webster

According to Oasis Petroleum’s most recent financial filings, Paulson’s hedge fund owns the fourth-largest share of the company. Trump has invested between $3 million and $15 million in Paulson’s hedge funds.

Dennis Nuss of Phillips 66, a 25 percent owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, said Wednesday that the pipeline should be fully operational in the first quarter of 2017.

Doing so, however, would require that the Army Corps of Engineers grant the easement, either under the Obama or Trump administrations.

Last week, Standing Rock Sioux Chair Dave Archambault II recommitted the tribe to the fight against the pipeline. “If there is an easement granted,” he said, “we will sue.”

The tribe has a federal lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers pending, which argues that the Corps failed to adequately consult with the tribe and that granting the easement for the pipeline to pass under the Missouri River would do irreparable harm.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected these arguments on Sept. 9, but only under the National Historic Preservation Act. The underlying lawsuit also argues that the Corps’ permitting process violated the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Rivers and Harbors Act. None of those claims has been fully litigated.

Another lawsuit underway in Iowa goes to court next month. Landowners in six counties there argue that Energy Transfer Partners’ claims of eminent domain when using their land for the pipeline were unlawful. Protests have also been ongoing in the state, continuing on Thursday, when three protectors — bearing food, water, and sleeping bags — locked themselves inside of the pipeline. They halted construction for 17 hours next to a sign reading: “No Eminent Domain for Private Gain.”

President Obama has 70 days left in office before Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. Late Friday, conflicting reports from the administration were reported by Politico and Reuters, originally suggesting that the Obama administration might go ahead and give its approval to the pipeline on Monday, then denying those reports, then quoting spokesperson Amy Gaskill of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that a decision “would come in the next few days, possibly by Monday.”

Lorrena Alameda, age 33, and her mother Gladys Renville, age 55, Dakota Sioux from South Dakota, are among the thousands of people from some 200 tribes who have flocked to Standing Rock to defend the water and the land, including some 6,000 people this past weekend alone. Alameda expects President Obama to take action on their behalf.

“I feel like all the promises he made to us, he needs to be there right now and tell [Energy Transfer Partners] to stop doing what they’re doing, and he needs to enforce it,” Alameda tells me. “Because, right now, everything that happens here is on his watch.”

Obama has many options. He can deny the easement and order the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This was not done, the Sierra Club’s Catherine Collentine explains, because the pipeline was “fast-tracked” using a far less comprehensive environmental assessment.

The administration could deny the easement and remain open to the pipeline crossing the Missouri River at another location — i.e. reroute the pipeline. Regardless of whether the reroute also requires an EIS, it would by definition require additional study by both the federal government and the company — all of which would be both time-consuming and costly.

Every day the project is stalled or incomplete costs money, adds more time for action by the protectors and their allies, and builds concern among investors.

Energy Transfer Partners is already suffering financially, reporting on Thursday a whopping 82 percent collapse in profits in the third quarter of 2016 versus the same period last year. Moreover, it originally committed to completing the pipeline by Jan. 1, but now predicts that it will not be operational until April. Every day the Jan. 1 deadline is not met, shippers planning on using it can terminate their contracts.

Finally, Obama can deny this, or any other easement for crossing the Missouri, thereby killing the Dakota Access Pipeline altogether.

In the midst of the historic peta waken ceremony, a tribal elder admonished the President, saying, “Obama, he started this, saying what our children can be. I say, ‘Don’t start it if you can’t finish it!’ I learned that in Cambodia.”

Any of these decisions could be undone or reversed by the incoming Trump administration. But doing so would also open the door to further litigation, something Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice, the attorney representing the Standing Rock Sioux, says he is fully prepared to do. If Obama grants the easement, that too can be litigated.

Those at Standing Rock remain unflinching in their commitment to stop the pipeline. Most could not be reached for comment on Friday as they were busy stopping work on the pipeline for several hours by blocking the pipeline route and taking over Dakota Access construction equipment near Highway 6; while others were busy winterizing the camps.


Their Facebook pages are replete with responses to Trump’s election, however, including this oft-posted image. “Disappointed, but not surprised” is a common theme, as is a renewed hope that President Obama will take swift action while still in office and that support from allies will grow, such as the protests at banks that invest in the project and the “Stand for Standing Rock” day of action on Nov. 15 at Army Corps of Engineers offices around the country.

Stopping the project is the option most favored by those at Standing Rock as they do not wish the problems they seek to avoid near their home thrust upon others. Most also seek to end dependence on oil altogether.

Chair Archambault declared as the fire ceremony drew to a close: “We have to decrease the dependency on how we use oil. If not, this is just one pipeline. There will be more.”

Antonia Juhasz writes about oil. You’ll find her writing in many publications, including Rolling Stone, Newsweek, Harper’s Magazine and The Nation. She is the author of three books, most recently, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.

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Trump’s victory could be a big win for the Dakota Access Pipeline, but opponents stand strong

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LAI, Landmark, ONA, Prepara, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Trump’s victory could be a big win for the Dakota Access Pipeline, but opponents stand strong