Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Standing Rock

"Our prayers have been answered." — Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians

I WAS happy for the first time since November 8. I'd just heard the news that the Army Corps of Engineers had denied a permit for work on part of the Dakota Access Pipeline, halting construction. 

You know me, so you know this pipeline makes me crazy. I distrust the application of eminent domain laws. Sometimes their use is warranted, but more often such laws are just a means of helping the rich and powerful become richer and more powerful at the expense of the those who aren't rich and aren't powerful. In your gut, you know I'm right. 

This pipeline is all about making Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners gazillions of dollars. Donald Trump owns shares in some of the companies backing the pipeline company, so guess what's going to happen. Christ almighty, we live in an oligarchy. 

Below are three pieces. The first is from NPR and it made me hopeful. The second, from U.S. Uncut, made me proud. The third, from Slate, made my stomach hurt. If I were truly courageous, I'd be at Standing Rock.

In Victory For Protesters, Army Halts Construction On Dakota Pipeline

By Nathan Rott

December 4, 2016

The Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for the construction of a key section of the Dakota Access Pipeline, granting a major victory to protesters who have been demonstrating for months.

The decision essentially halts the construction on the 1,172-mile oil pipeline just north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Thousands of demonstrators from across the country had flocked to North Dakota in protest.

"Our prayers have been answered," National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby said in a statement. "This isn't over, but it is enormously good news. All tribal peoples have prayed from the beginning for a peaceful solution, and this puts us back on track."

Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army's assistant secretary for civil works, said after talking with tribal officials and hearing their concerns that the pipeline could affect the drinking water, it became "clear that there's more work to do."

"The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing," Darcy said in a statement.

The Army Corps says it intends to issue an Environmental Impact Statement with "full public input and analysis."

At the site of the protests, the news spread in excited whispers and statements of disbelief. Finally, one man at the Oceti Sakowin Camp finally yelled it: "The easement has been denied!"

Cheers and whoops erupted from the crowd nearby and continued for hours, as different parts of the sprawling camp heard about the federal government's decision.

For Tom Shaving, of the Cheyenne River tribe, the news was exciting and a welcome relief. He has been camping in protest of the pipeline since August, watching his group of "water protectors" grow from dozens of people on the banks of the Cannonball River to a settlement of thousands.

In a statement, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said the tribe welcomed the decision, but he also sounded a note of caution saying he hoped the incoming Donald Trump administration would "respect this decision and understand the complex process that led us to this point."

"We have to keep going," he says. "We have to persevere. Trump's right next in line."

Veterans at Standing Rock just announced where they’re heading next — and it’s awesome

By Zach Cartwright

December 5, 2016

The veterans who just joined the indigenous protest to the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota are heading to Flint, Michigan next.

While a date hasn’t yet been set for the trip to Flint, Wes Clark Jr., who organized a force of over 4,000 U.S. military veterans to mobilize for Standing Rock, said he’s planning a similar mobilization to help the people of Flint.

“This problem is all over the county. It’s got to be more than veterans,” Clark told the Flint Journal. “People have been treated wrong in this county for a long time.”

Flint resident Arthur Woodson, who is a veteran and a supporter of the Standing Rock protesters, said the veterans coming to Flint may help revive media attention on the community’s plight of tainted drinking water, and that the renewed public pressure could bring about an effective solution.

“All the media attention that was there brought more attention to Standing Rock. The government had a change of heart,” Woodson told the Journal.

In 2015, it was revealed that the Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to switch drinking water sources from Lake Huron to the Flint River resulted in a mass outbreak of lead poisoning. Scientists discovered that water from the water people had been drinking since 2014 was 19 times more corrosive than the Lake Huron water the city had been purchasing from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department.

The corrosive elements in the city’s new drinking water supply further eroded the city’s aging water infrastructure, and fragments of the lead pipes supplying water to homes within the city made it into residents’ homes. A class-action lawsuit alleges the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality didn’t treat the river water with an anti-corrosive agent, which would be a violation of federal law.

Flint resident and veteran George Grundy told local media that hearing the news of the contingent of veterans planning to showing up for Flint renewed his faith in “the human spirit.”

“These are people who have been just as oppressed and in some other forms more oppressed than black folks and to hear these people speak the name of Flint and know that Flint is in duress too and say that we are in their prayers that just does a lot to me,” Grundy told the Journal. “It just shows me that the human spirit is larger than any corporate entity and you can believe in your fellow person because it’s worth it.”

The Companies Behind the Dakota Access Pipeline Don’t Think They’ve Lost

They’re pretty sure corporations will always get their way under President Trump.

By Daniel Gross

December 5, 2016

On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers seemed to hand a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux and their fellow protesters, who have been campaigning to stop the construction of an oil pipeline in North Dakota. After delaying a decision on Nov. 14, a week after the election, the Army Corps has now said it won’t grant an easement for the pipeline to travel beneath a dammed portion of the Missouri River. The parties behind the Dakota Access Pipeline should look into alternative routes, the corps said.

But the saga is far from over. In fact, the reaction by the two companies constructing the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners, was telling. Dismissing the ruling as a “purely political action” that was part of the Obama administration’s desire to avoid making a final decision on the project, the companies insisted it would have no bearing on their plans whatsoever. They said they are “fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”

In other words, the companies believe that they, not the government nor the Native American tribes whose land could be impacted by the pipeline, make the decision. They’ve deemed the ruling illegitimate because it was made by an administration with which they disagree, and they signaled they will move ahead regardless. Investors seem to agree. The stock of Energy Transfer Partners only fell about 2 percent in early trading.

There’s good reason to believe the companies’ analysis of the situation isn’t just posturing—and their confidence is downright terrifying. There are two possible reasons the Army Corps issued this decision. First, it could be that the corps, which is tasked with managing the health of large internal waterways and infrastructure projects, really believes that it is a bad idea to put a crude oil pipeline underneath a dammed portion of the Missouri River. Second, it’s possible that Obama political appointees higher up the chain of command leaned on the bureaucracy to issue a last-gasp environmental protection effort.

Either way, it’s easy to see how this could be reversed in a matter of months. President-elect Donald Trump said last week that he favors the pipeline. The fact that Trump owns shares in some of the companies backing the pipeline company doesn’t seem to be a disqualifying issue for him. With remarkable speed, the media and political systems have normalized the notion that Trump will use his position to pursue policies that appear to benefit him and his family financially. Such activity will likely be a feature of the coming era rather than a bug. As Politico reports, congressional Republicans have concluded that until the public expresses concerns about Trump’s norm-busting financial conflicts of interest, they won’t.

The case against the pipeline rests on two principal legs: that the federal government should respect the prerogatives and interests of a minority group that has been abused and mistreated by the state in the past and the need to weigh our demand for fossil fuels against the emissions and environmental damage associated with their transport and use.

It’s pretty clear where the Trump administration will come down on both these issues. Trump didn’t spend much time on the stump insulting Native Americans, although he did seem to relish dubbing Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” and derogatory war whoops became a quasi-regular feature at Trump rallies. And whether he is calling global warming a China-inspired hoax, going after wind turbines, or promising to revive the dying coal industry, it’s pretty clear that President-elect Trump will be largely indifferent to conventional efforts to improve air quality and the concerns that fossil fuels can have a negative environmental impact.

But there’s something else going on here. Read the statement from Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics again. The companies are confident that, regardless of the merits, regardless of the perceived independence and professionalism of the Army Corps of Engineers, the corporations will essentially be able to have their way. They’re confident that under the Trump administration, the executive branch will easily reach down into agencies to influence policy made by career civil servants in ways that benefit private corporations and investors.

This is, in fact, a widespread assumption. In the past few weeks, private prison stocks have gotten a boost because investors perceive a Trump administration will send them more business (through immigration enforcement) and reverse Obama-era decisions to phase out the federal government’s use of private prisons. For-profit university stocks have been booming because people presume the onetime proprietor of the sham Trump University will preside over Education and Justice departments that will go easy on them. And the shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been rallying because investors believe the Trump Treasury Department, under the leadership of charmed bubble-surfer Steven Mnuchin, will do what the Obama administration refused to do: deliver the two government-supported entities back into private hands on favorable terms.

Of course, investment theses predicated entirely on anticipated changes in government policy can be undone by reality and unrelated phenomena. If interest rates spike and the housing market goes south, then the prospects of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac look significantly less robust, for example. What’s more, it’s clear that Trump views his promises only as so much rhetoric. But as Trump showed in Indiana last week, he is very willing to convert those promises into stunts for political gain, no matter their wisdom from a policy perspective. Standing Rock may be no different.

No surprise, on Monday morning, Reuters reported that Trump advisers are interested in privatizing Native American reservations so they can be opened up for fossil fuel production.

No comments:

Post a Comment