After months of protests which have turned bloody and included arson and other forms of vandalism, I really thought that the Dakota Access Pipeline questions were mostly solved, except for how to control the violent camps of the activists. Apparently I was mistaken. Even though the matter has been settled repeatedly in front of a judge, the President threw a wrench in the works this week when he told an interviewer that he “thinks” the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) is now looking at rerouting the project yet again. Are you kidding me? (Washington Post)

President Obama said Tuesday that his administration was considering ways to “reroute” the Dakota Access oil pipeline after a week of violent clashes between authorities and activists protesting the controversial project.

In an interview with NowThis, Obama addressed concerns from Native Americans that the pipeline cuts too close to tribal lands in North Dakota. The $3.8 billion project was approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is slated to cross under a section of the Missouri River less than a mile from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

“We’re monitoring this closely,” Obama said. “My view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans. And I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.”

The outlet conducting the interview helpfully provides the clip in this tweet.

First of all, I have to wonder about the President’s choice of words here. “I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute…”

You think? The ACE dug into this question for years. It was debated between the developers and the tribes. It went to court multiple times when faced with additional challenges. It took forever for the Army to arrive at this conclusion and allow work to begin. If they are reconsidering at this point I somehow doubt that it happened without some sort of a “nudge” from Washington.

And why would they be considering it now unless it was the result of someone bowing to political pressure because they think the protests look bad on the evening news during an election? The route has already been changed so many times that an overlay of the various plans looks more like a Rorschach test than a map. The tribes were uncooperative at best when the courts invited them into the process to achieve a compromise and they largely ignored the findings of numerous investigations which revealed that there were no tribal artifacts or historical sites under the route.

Energy Transfer Partners L.P. ETP (the primary developer) is already hip deep into the estimated $3.7B project and the cost overruns have already been through the roof. Moving the pipeline yet again is only going to dig that financial hole even deeper. And what would be the reason for this? As I mentioned above, the case is essentially settled in the eyes of the courts. The appeals have been exhausted. If they send the project back to the drawing board now it’s going to be evident that it was a political, not legal decision. And if so, it would be part of a larger pattern. We’ve already seen reports that federal law enforcement efforts to keep the violent protesters under control has been tepid at best, with the feds being told to stand down by Washington. This generosity is on behalf of people who have set fire to millions of dollars worth of equipment and at least one woman who has now been charged with attempted murder.

Politics is polluting this process and the entire thing stinks to high heaven. The Dakota Access Pipeline is providing a vast number of jobs already and will deliver affordable energy in the most environmentally safe fashion available. Turning it into another Keystone pipeline fiasco is a national tragedy.

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