The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
On Tuesday, the Army Corps of Engineers reversed their December decision to halt construction on the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The proposed route for the pipeline runs under sacred land less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. It also runs under the Missouri River, the tribe’s main source for drinking water.
The December 2016 announcement came after months of protests when the Obama administration stepped in and said it would halt construction in order to conduct an environmental impact review of the project. Tuesday’s decision, announced by Robert Speer, acting secretary of the Army, grants the final easement to build the last mile and a half of the 1,172-mile pipeline, effectively canceling the environmental impact review. The Army’s decision to renew construction of the pipeline falls in line with President Trump’s executive actions to push forward on approval for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines. Then President-elect Trump declared his support for the pipelines back in December.
Amid all of the politics and press attention surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline, we must remember the humanity and broader sense of justice that is at stake here.
The pipeline’s route poses a grave threat to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s main source of drinking water. A leak in the pipeline could result in the contamination of the Missouri River. Poor and minority communities continually bear a disproportionate burden of the effects of climate change. A statement from the Central Conference of American Rabbis reads, “The initial environmental assessment of the pipeline was determined to be a threat to the drinking water of the predominantly white residents of Bismarck. Building that same dangerous pipeline within a half-mile of the tribal lands, with the same threat to drinking water, is emblematic of climate injustice in America and around the world.”
At the height of confrontational protests in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, we raised concerns about the treatment of protesters. In letters to North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the RAC, wrote, “Our tradition teaches that all human beings are created in the image of God. In recognition of the Divine spark present in all, the protesters must be treated with dignity and respect, and afforded the ability to make their views heard without fear for their safety.”
The Dakota Access Pipeline poses threats to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Missouri River and our broader work to protect our planet. In response to the latest decision, protests have popped up all over the country as a last attempt to stop the pipeline. We will continue to take inspiration from our Jewish values and tradition to advocate for access to clean air and water, preservation of the environment and the rights of protesters to be heard.