By Nathan Barton
I got the news late yesterday: actually a bit surprising on a Sunday, but maybe I just overlooked it.
The “Water Protectors” have won: the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has had its permit denied by the US Army Corps of Engineers to allow the last 1% or so to be built under “Corps-owned” land and 90 feet below the lakebed of Oahe Reservoir in North Dakota. What a “great victory.” I got several e-mails crowing about this, and there are lots of stories, such as this one at NPR.
What a pile of garbage. The permit is NOT denied: it is simply that the powers that be (whether on Wall Street, in the White House, or in the Pentagon) have stated that the current, once-approved route is now to undergo yet another round of “environmental assessment” and is to be considered together with various “alternatives” – just as was done several years ago. The previously approved permit is being revoked; the FONSI (“finding of no significant environmental impact”) is cancelled, and the ROD (Record of Decision) is vacated.
But at the end of the restarted process under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Corps and the various coordinating agencies could find that this is STILL the best route. (A FONSI does not mean that there are NO environmental impacts, but simply that all identified environmental impacts can be mitigated to a point at which they no longer present a significant negative impact to public health, safety, and environmental quality.)
But the protesters and the mainstream media (and their other public enablers) are unwilling to accept reality: they want a victory so badly that they cannot stand to face the truth. I am sure that those people who are using the protesters and the celebrities and the media as their shills in this game are aware of that. And perhaps they don’t care, either because they believe that the delay triggered by this decision is going to be fatal to the project, or because other events will render the pipeline of no importance and the actions moot. Or perhaps because they are manipulating things behind the scenes and stand to make a huge and possibly immoral profit because of this.
The Corps could do one of several things, and it will take a year or more to do so, simply because the process of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is both costly and complex, and so very time consuming. The Corps could:
– Decide that of the half-dozen or so alternatives, the existing one is still the best, probably with increased mitigation measures.
– Decide that another of the half-dozen or so alternatives will be used instead, to reduce the impacts in the immediate vicinity and to sooth the ruffled feathers of all involved.
– Decide that still MORE study is needed, perhaps of additional alternatives.
You see, although it has been used for that purpose, the NEPA process and an EIS is NOT designed or intended to keep a project from being done. Although it HAS been used for that, that outcome is usually the result of the applicant/operator running out of money or out of patience and determination. Rather, the NEPA process is intended to make everyone feel as though they had a chance to blow of steam, and secondarily to require mitigation measures (including changes) which make the project “acceptable” – or at least which make the agency able to SAY that the project is acceptable.
If the EIS (or EA) does not allow that, then the project gets moved to the courts or to the political processes of Congress. And when the project is so near to completion, and has already cost billions, and with a new administration coming to power in DC, it is very likely that the builder WILL not accept even a favorable EIS and ROD, if it is too costly, and will resort to politics and the legal system. If they have time, and if they can get the right venue.
Which in this case, the applicant already has. A judge has already said that the entire process to this point was done in strict accordance to the laws and regulations and policies. Which means that the Corps is being ordered to do something which is in VIOLATION of the law – or at least the regulations. And that the Corps and its employees in Omaha and Bismarck have been thrown under the bus. The suspects, of course, are pretty obvious: the tyrant in 1600 and his minions (political appointees) in the Pentagon. Aided and abetted by others, of course.
As always, follow the money trail. Who benefits from preventing this pipeline from being finished and put into use? First off, the “protesters” (who seem to be very similar to the Occupy movement) and the various environist organizations that support them. But second, and more important, are the people who own and operate the railroads that currently transport the oil – at significantly greater risk to health and environment than the pipeline. And third (and maybe even MORE important) the politicians for whom this delay provides opportunity for mischief and more.
These are, for the most part, the same groups and people that have been exploiting the Standing Rock Lakota and their brethren for 80 years and more.