The National Guard has deployed missile launchers to a "critical" Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) site, while the pipeline's parent company seeks to quash an environmental review of the project—two developments that hint at the possibility of renewed tensions between DAPL's opponents and state authorities.
Reports emerged Tuesday that the National Guard had sent two surface-to-air missile launchers to a "critical work site" for the controversial pipeline, which water protectors said appeared to be guarding a drill pad. National Guard spokesman William Prokopyk told the Daily Beast the missiles were not armed and had no authorization to be, with the Morton County Sheriff's Department adding in a Facebook statement that they were "strictly for observation of ungoverned encampments to help protect private property and maintain public safety."
Still, the presence of military weapons is likely to increase tensions between authorities and the Standing Rock Sioux, who have camped out at the North Dakota construction sites for months to prevent the pipeline from being completed. At least three people were arrested and tear-gassed earlier this week during a prayer walk at the proposed Missouri River drill site near Cannon Ball.
The Beast's David Axe noted:
The Avenger is foremost a weapon of war. It combines a Humvee truck chassis with a rotating turret that can be armed with eight Stinger missiles and a .50-caliber machine gun. The North Dakota Army National Guard's 1st battalion, 188th Air Defense Regiment—which has companies in Bismark, Fargo and Grand Forks—operates Avengers.
Meanwhile, the company behind the project, the Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), has reportedly asked a federal judge to block the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from launching a full environmental review of the pipeline's crossing of a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota.
The Bismarck Tribune reports:
ETP wants any further study put on hold until Boasberg, in Washington, D.C., rules on whether ETP already has the necessary permission to lay pipe under Lake Oahe—the reservoir that's the water source for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
ETP wants to block further study so that the decision on the permitting, which is likely weeks away, will be "free from the risk that its ruling will be frustrated or thwarted by new governmental actions." The corps did not immediately respond to ETP's request.
The effort comes after a significant victory for the Standing Rock Sioux, when the corps in December denied ETP a construction permit until a full review could be carried out.
Water protectors have been urging supporters to lobby the corps to conduct a full review before President-elect Donald Trump, who has officially come out in favor of the pipeline, takes office.
Reuters reported in December that Trump's advisers may push to privatize Indigenous lands for easier access to oil and gas reserves.
Chase Iron Eyes, a Native American activist and attorney, tweeted in response to the news, "Until DAPL is gone. Until the blockade & most militarized corp law enf since Occupy, Ferguson & Wounded Knee is gone, we will stand & fight."
Until DAPL is gone. Until the blockade & most militarized corp law enf since Occupy, Ferguson & Wounded Knee is gone, we will stand & fight.— Chase Iron Eyes (@ChaseIronEyes) January 17, 2017