(WASHINGTON) — President Obama on Wednesday said that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is considering rerouting the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is being built near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation in North Dakota.
“We’re monitoring this closely,” Obama said in an interview with Now This News. “My view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans. And I think that right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.”
“We’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of First Americans,” he added.
The comments mark the president’s first time directly addressing the standoff over the mostly built 1,172-mile crude oil pipeline. The president talked about recent clashes between protesters and police, encouraging both sides to exercise calm and restraint as he has urged in previous protests.
“It’s a challenging situation,” Obama said. “There is an obligation for protesters to be peaceful, and there is an obligation for authorities to show restraint. And I want to make sure that as everyone is exercising their constitutional rights to be heard that both sides are refraining from situations that might result in people being hurt.”
In September, the president made a passing reference to the protests, acknowledging Native-Americans have rallied around the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
“I know many of you have come together across tribes and across the country to support the community at Standing Rock and together you’re making your voices heard,” the president said at the White House Tribal Nations Conference. “And in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect we’ve made a lot of progress for Indian country over the past eight years and this moment highlights why it’s so important that we re-double our efforts to make sure that every federal agency truly consults and listens, and works with you sovereign to sovereign.”
Despite growing protests from Native American groups and environmental activists, however, construction of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline is likely past the point of no return, some experts say, while others noted that to find a solution to the tense standoff, both sides may need to compromise a little.
“You have seen this kind of slow train wreck coming for a long time. One would think that the option that would save face for all the parties would be to re-route the pipeline,” Tyler Priest, a professor at the University of Iowa who served as a senior policy analyst for the President’s National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, told ABC News earlier.
But rerouting the pipeline at this stage would incur huge costs and logistical obstacles, such as acquiring new land, permits and organizing construction during the winter months, Priest noted.
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