Acting Secretary for the Army Corps of Engineers Robert Speer has directed the Corps to move forward with the Dakota Access Pipeline project. This is the first step toward the department formally issuing the easement, which has not yet happened.

The 1,172-mile long pipeline is nearly completed. All it needs is the final parcel of land that crosses beneath the Lake Oahe crossing of the Missouri River—the area that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and allies have been fighting to protect for more than a year. The Corps denied the easement on December 4, 2016, mandating an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), but two representatives announced Speer’s decision last night (January 31).

North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, who supports the project, issued a statement online:

“Building new energy infrastructure with the latest safeguards and technology is the safest and most environmentally sound way to move energy from where it is produced to where people need it.

We are also working with the Corps, the Department of Justice, the Department of Interior and the Department of Homeland Security to secure additional federal law enforcement resources to support state and local law enforcement.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) conveyed a similar sentiment on his website:

“I have received word the Department of Defense is granting the easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline and Congressional notification is imminent. It’s time to get to work and finish this important piece of energy infrastructure enhancing America’s energy security and putting North Dakotans and Americans back to work. President [Donald] Trump has proven to be a man of action and I am grateful for his commitment to this and other critical infrastructure projects so vital to our nation.”  

Cramer points to Trump because his memo January 24 pushed for this immediate action on Dakota Access. Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II was hoping to meet with the president before any decisions were made, but Trump appears to have ignored his request.

In a press release sent to Colorlines yesterday, the tribe announced that it will challenge the Corps’ decision through legal action. Their release states:

The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the EIS and issue the easement. The Corps must review the Presidential Memorandum, notify Congress, and actually grant the easement. We have not received formal notice that the EIS has been suspended or withdrawn.

The Sacred Stone Camp, the first to erect a teepee in defiance of the “black snake,” as they call the pipeline, has put out a call to action inviting water protectors and supporters to return to camp and stand with them. Most people left the camps, which once housed thousands from across the world, after the tribe requested they return home for the winter.

Watch the Sacred Stone Camp’s video call below.

New York Daily News senior justice writer Shaun King is using this moment to pressure the Seattle City Council to divest billions of dollars from Wells Fargo, one of the banks funding the $3.78 billion project, as part of his “Injustice Boycott.” A council committee will hear the divestment proposal today (February 1) at 9 a.m. PST, according to The Seattle Times