No Deadline Extension for Dakota Protesters

Posted by Joseph Keefe

Federal officials and North Dakota's governor on
Thursday refused to extend next week's evacuation deadline for
activists living in camps that have been a base for months for
demonstrations against the multibillion-dollar Dakota Access oil
pipeline.

Opponents of the 1,170-mile (1.882-km) line met with officials
from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Republican Governor Doug
Burgum and the state Department of Transportation on Thursday
morning, asking to be given more time to remove their belongings
and waste from the camps.

In a statement on Thursday evening, Burgum and the Army Corps
refused to extend next Wednesday's deadline. Army Corps spokesman
Ryan Hignight said contractors working for the agency would enter
the camp as soon as they could.

"We're not going to necessarily wait for the 22nd," Hignight
said.

Pipeline opponents say they fear fresh conflicts with law
enforcement if Army Crops crews, including waste-removal
personnel, are accompanied by police.

"It's completely impossible to remove everything down there in
that short of a time frame," said Chase Iron Eyes, a member of
the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. "The people aren't opposed to the
help of the Army Corps, but it's got to be without the presence
of militarized law enforcement."

The exchange came a day after Burgum ordered pipeline opponents
to move off of land owned by the Army Corps, citing safety and
environmental pollution concerns posed by spring snowmelt and
rising water levels in the nearby Cannonball River.

Hignight warned that anyone still occupying Army Corps land after
the deadline could face fines as high as $5,000 and six-month
jail terms. About 700 pipeline opponents have been arrested since
August 2016.

Environmentalists and Native Americans who have opposed the
pipeline, saying it threatens water resources and sacred sites,
have faced a series of setbacks since Republican President Donald
Trump took office in January.

A federal judge on Monday denied a request by Native American
tribes seeking to halt construction of the final link of the $3.8
billion pipeline after the Corps of Engineers granted a final
easement to Energy Transfer Partners LP last week.

Reporting by Terray Sylvester

Feb 17, 2017

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