The Dakota Access pipeline was first proposed in 2014. Its 1,172-mile path would carry between 400,000 and 579,000 barrels of crude oil per day through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North and South Dakota on its way to Patoka, Illinois.
At the heart of what’s become one of the most contentious environmental battles in recent years, is the federal government’s historically shoddy treatment of Native Americans: construction of the pipeline would desecrate sacred tribal lands and jeopardize the reservation’s water supply.
What began as a protest by a handful of people has grown to include environmentalists, landowners who’ve fallen victim to eminent domain and thousands of ordinary citizens pledging support via Facebook check-ins and apparel purchases. Among those protesting at the site are celebrities and members of 300 tribal nations. (Protests led by tribal groups have been successful in drawing attention to other fossil-fuel projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and a proposed coal facility in Washington state.)
Since August, hundreds of arrests have been made. Protesters and representatives of the Standing Rock Sioux have called the police response—rubber bullets; detainment in dog kennels—disproportionate.
The developer, Energy Transfer Partners, out of Texas, says construction in four states is 60% complete, but calls President Obama’s reversal of a federal judge’s ruling to allow construction on Friday, a major setback. The administration ordered Energy Transfer Partners to halt construction pending a review of the permitted path by the Army Corps of Engineers. In a joint statement the Justice Department, Interior Department and Army said the case has “highlighted the need for serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”