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Demonstrations Continue At The Dakota Access Pipeline


Demonstrators have been out in force all across the country today protesting the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The federal government halted construction of the pipeline yesterday, saying it needed to study it more. And today the company building the pipeline has gone to court in an effort to finish the project. NPR's Cheryl Corley is with us from Bismarck, N.D. Hi there, Cheryl.


MCEVERS: Good. So tell us. What are the protesters - what are they saying that they want?

CORLEY: Well, you know, this is a protest that has been going on for quite a while now. And what they want essentially is for the pipeline to be stopped, for it not to exist. And it's all about water, oil and heritage.

The Dakota Access Pipeline would run through four states. It would hook up to an existing pipeline in Illinois. And the company building it, Energy Transfer, says the pipeline is just a more efficient and a safer way to transport oil. And most of this pipeline is built.

But there's been longstanding opposition to the company's plan, especially to begin drilling under a section of the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. So Native Americans and their supporters say the pipeline would pollute nearby water supplies and destroy sacred historical sites. And that's what this fight has been about.

MCEVERS: As we said, you're there in North Dakota. What's the scene been like there? I understand there have been some arrests today.

CORLEY: Yes, there have been some arrests. There have been actually two types of protests here today, with some activists coming into the Bismarck area, laying trees along some of the freight-line tracks here and just a lot of commotion. And police did arrest some folks here today for that. On the reservation and the land around the reservation, there was an action, as well. But I wanted to talk to you about one of the organizers, Jade Begay, who talked about why all of this action was occurring. And this is what she had to say.

JADE BEGAY: The movement's growing. It's going to continue to grow despite whatever the outcome is in the next few days. And I just don't see people backing down on this one.

CORLEY: She's with an environmental group that helped organize this national day of action and says they're just going to keep pushing for the pipeline to come to an end.

MCEVERS: As we said, the Army Corps of Engineers has suspended construction on the pipeline to study it further. Meanwhile, the companies building the pipeline have gone to court. What is it they're asking for?

CORLEY: They're asking for a declaratory judgment from the court to say, yes, you can go ahead and build this pipeline. They were very angry that the Army Corps of Engineers kind of backtracked and said that they couldn't build the pipeline at least for now because they wanted to have more study. So they say the - they had everything in order, everything in place. And they want the judge to say they should go ahead and finish the job.

MCEVERS: And quickly - I mean we're in the final moments of the Obama administration. It seems like this dispute might outlast that administration. What could happen next?

CORLEY: Well, it could go to the - a Trump administration, which is what the company is hoping happens and what the tribe and environmentalists and others - they hope does not happen.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Cheryl Corley in Bismarck, N.D. Thank you very much.

CORLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.