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On the day of his inauguration, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that revoked the permit for the long-disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
“The world must be put on a sustainable climate pathway to protect Americans and the domestic economy from harmful climate impacts, and to create well-paying union jobs as part of the climate solution,” read the Jan. 20 order. “Leaving the Keystone XL pipeline permit in place would not be consistent with my administration’s economic and climate imperatives.”
Now, less than three weeks later, more than 200 people have signed a letter addressed to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline after a court ruled that President Donald Trump’s administration broke the law when it pushed forward with construction during his tenure in the White House. The letter, dated Feb. 8, was signed by actors, artists, filmmakers, producers, indigenous leaders, climate activists and nonprofit founders, among others.
Signatories include Leonardo DiCaprio, Cher, Ava DuVernay, Jane Fonda, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle, Jason Momoa, Kerry Washington, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany, Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara, and newly engaged Aaron Rodgers and Shailene Woodley. Also putting their names behind it are members of the We Stand United collective: Mark Ruffalo, producer Bruce Cohen, Julia Walsh, Marisa Tomei and Rebecca Chaiklin.
The letter recaps the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline and details how, over the previous four years, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe have fought to keep it from being completed. In July 2020, a court ordered that it be shut down and a hearing is set for Feb. 10 to determine a final ruling. The pipeline carries oil from North Dakota underground through South Dakota and Iowa, ending in Patoka, Illinois, and has long been protested by activists, including celebrities like Woodley, who was once arrested during such an event.
“We urge you to remedy this historic injustice and direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately shut down the illegal Dakota Access Pipeline while the Environmental Impact Statement process is conducted, consistent with the D.C. District Court’s decision and order,” reads today’s letter. “Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps must ensure a robust environmental review with significant tribal consultation, tribal consent, and a thorough risk analysis. With your leadership, we have a momentous opportunity to protect our water and respect our environmental laws and the rights of Indigenous people. This is our moment.”
The Hill reported today, per a White House spokesperson, the administration is now reviewing the court’s decision. Below is an edited list of the high-profile names who added their signature. A full list and the letter can be found here.
February 8, 2021
Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris,
Thank you for your administration’s early focus on climate change, tribal sovereignty, and racial justice and equity, including your decision to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. We are also grateful for your critical efforts to save lives and address the COVID-19 pandemic that is disproportionately impacting BIPOC communities across our country. As your Administration takes action to address the climate crisis and strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities, we respectfully urge you to reverse another harmful Trump Administration decision and immediately shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) during its court-ordered environmental review.
In 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe became the epicenter of a global climate justice movement to stop the illegal construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline had originally been slated to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, ND, yet the risk of an oil spill on the city’s 90% white inhabitants was deemed too great. The new crossing site shifted the risk to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in a location of key religious and cultural importance, including the burial grounds of their ancestors. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved several of the required permits without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement or adequately consulting with the Tribe.
After several months of peaceful demonstrations and the advocacy of tens of millions of Americans, President Obama listened to the demands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He declined to issue the final pipeline permit. Then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced they would conduct a full environmental review, which would focus on the Tribe’s treaty rights. However, Trump stopped the review and fast-tracked the pipeline hours after he took office, further violating tribal sovereignty.
During the next four years, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe, and Oglala Sioux Tribe continued their legal fight, making the case that the pipeline was illegal. In March 2020, the U.S. District Court ruled that the pipeline was operating without the proper permits and needed to have a full environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Court ordered the U.S. Army Corps to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. In July 2020, the Court ordered the pipeline be shut down. After an appeal, on January 27th, days after your Inauguration, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the pipeline is operating illegally and gave your Administration the authority to shut down the pipeline. The U.S. District Judge set a hearing on February 10th to discuss the final ruling and to ask your Administration whether you will shut down the pipeline or allow it to operate illegally without a permit.
We urge you to remedy this historic injustice and direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately shut down the illegal Dakota Access Pipeline while the Environmental Impact Statement process is conducted, consistent with the D.C. District Court’s decision and order. Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps must ensure a robust environmental review with significant tribal consultation, tribal consent, and a thorough risk analysis. With your leadership, we have a momentous opportunity to protect our water and respect our environmental laws and the rights of Indigenous people. This is our moment.
Mni Wiconi. Water is life.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers quarterback
Alysia Reiner, actress
David Kyp Malone, musician
Julie Bergman, filmmaker
Malik Yusef Jones, entertainer
Mishel Prada, actress
Rebecca Chaiklin, filmmaker
Robert Downey Jr.
Taboo Nawasha, artist, activist and Black Eyed Peas star
Todd Haynes, filmmaker
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