President Barack Obama said the federal government is looking at alternative routes for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline, the planning of which has sparked fierce protests from North Dakota's Native American community who say the project will damage their water source.
“We’re monitoring this closely, and you know I think that as a general rule my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans,” Obama told MSNBC, according to The Washington Times.
But the president stressed that nothing is definitive and he has no plans to step in, despite passionate support from around the world for the Standing Rock Red Sioux tribe, whose land the pipeline project is planned to travel through.
“We’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and then determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to traditions of the first Americans,” Obama said.
Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II applauded Obama’s commitment “to protect our sacred lands, our water, and the water of 17 million others,” according to the Grand Forks Herald.
But Archambault also called on Obama to do more.
“While the Army Corps of Engineers is examining this issue we call on the administration and the Corps to issue an immediate ‘stop work order’ on the Dakota Access Pipeline,” he said. “And given the flawed process that has put our drinking water in jeopardy, we also urge the Administration to call for a full environmental impact study.
The original plans for the Dakota Access Pipeline had the project located approximately 10 miles north of Bismarck, North Dakota's capital city. But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that vital water sources there could be contaminated by the pipeline, according to The Bismarck Tribune.
The pipeline project was then planned to move through the Standing Rock tribe's land.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not concluded its study on whether water would be affected, although Dallas, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the company spearheading the project, has already attempted to begin building the pipeline.