In defiance of both the Obama administration and ongoing Indigenous protests, the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline announced Tuesday that it would soon begin drilling under the Missouri River.
"It's unconscionable and devastating. It's almost as though they have no soul."
—Cheryl Angel, Sicangu LakotaThe pipeline operator, Energy Transfer Partners, made the announcement late in the afternoon on Election Day, when most media outlets were preoccupied with the presidential election.
The Guardian reports:
Energy Transfer Partners, the company overseeing the North Dakota oil pipeline, has already completed construction up to the river that provides water to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and announced on Tuesday it would soon begin drilling at the site.
The company said it would not halt construction, despite requests by federal agencies to delay the project as the US government reassesses permits and considers possible reroutes.
In a statement, Energy Transfer Partners said it was "mobilizing horizontal drilling equipment" in preparation for tunneling under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri river by the protest camps and Native American reservation. The corporation said it would be ready to start crossing the water in two weeks.
"I'm in shock. I'm speechless," Cheryl Angel, a Sicangu Lakota tribe member who has been at the Standing Rock camps since the spring, told the Guardian. "It's unconscionable and devastating. It's almost as though they have no soul."
Meanwhile, industry experts are saying that the election of Donald Trump all but guarantees the construction of the pipeline that would transport fracked oil from North Dakota to a terminal in Illinois, crossing the Missouri River upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.
"Dakota Access went from being in some doubt to being a solid bet with this election," said financial analyst Ethan Bellamy to the financial publication Platts.
The outlet reports that Dakota Access Pipeline "sponsor Energy Transfer Partners' shares were up 11.7 percent Wednesday afternoon at $37.28."
"Trump's support of U.S. oil and gas development and his close ties to Harold Hamm, CEO of key Bakken producer Continental Resources that stands to gain from improved netbacks from Dakota Access, make it highly likely he will greenlight the project," Bellamy said, according to Platts.
And industry group Western Energy Alliance hailed Trump's election: "We look forward to working with President-elect Trump's administration to roll back many unlawful regulatory orders," the lobbying group wrote in a statement released Wednesday. "We anticipate good policies moving forward such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, liquefied natural gas exports, and energy projects on non-park, non-wilderness federal lands."
Yet many Dakota Access protesters are staying strong and echoing the sentiments of Ladonna Bravebull Allard, an Indigenous water protector at the Sacred Stone camp, who asserted prior to the election: "I know there are people worried about the new president, and I want to let you know that we have suffered under all the American presidents since the establishment of America. Nothing changes for us. We will still be expendable in their eyes."
"We must continue to stand up and say we have a right to live. We must let the world know we have a right to clean water. We must stand up for our children, grandchildren, and the unborn!" Allard said. "We fight in prayer, we fight in civil disobedience. We must stop the black snake!"