Manataka American Indian Council

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Pipeline protest similar North Dakota promised in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Tribal representatives and environmentalists on Jan. 30 promised an encampment similar to the ongoing protest against the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota to oppose the Diamond Pipeline planned from Oklahoma, across Arkansas, to Tennessee.

“There definitely will be an encampment in Oklahoma in the near future,” said Mekasi Camp Horinek of the Ponca Nation and the Bold Oklahoma protest group, but he declined to say when or where it would be held.

“That is an undisclosed location at this time,” Horinek said. “You ‘could’ expect something from us later today, you never know.”

Critics of the project say the pipeline could be damaged by the numerous earthquakes that have struck Oklahoma in recent years, threatens the environment, rivers and Indian burial grounds.

“It also affects the Trail of Tears,” said Michael Casteel, a director of the American Indian Movement, in reference to the route along which Indians were forcibly removed from their lands in the southeastern United States in the 1800s to be settled in present-day Oklahoma.

“There are thousands of unmarked graves,” along the route that included parts of Tennessee and Arkansas, Casteel said, “this is a tragedy.”

The 440-mile pipeline by Plains All American Pipeline and Valero Energy Corp. would extend from Cushing, Oklahoma, across Arkansas, capable of transporting 200,000 barrels per day of domestic crude oil to a Valero refinery in Memphis, Tennessee.

Protests have previously been held in Arkansas, and earlier in January about a dozen people were arrested in Memphis after using 55-gallon drums to block the refinery’s truck loading entrance. Some of the protesters handcuffed themselves to the drums.

Plains spokesman Brad Leone said in a statement that the company is committed to meeting or exceeding safety standards and minimizing environmental impacts and that 23 tribes identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were provided details of the process.

“During the permitting process, the USACE engaged in the government-to-government ... consultation process and provided tribal governments an opportunity to review and comment on cultural work being performed prior to permit issuance,” Leone said.

“Where concerns were raised about the route, every effort was made to reroute the pipeline, use less invasive installation technologies, or provide access to the right of way during construction activities for trained cultural monitors, some of whom are recommended by or directly provided by certain tribes.”

Construction on the $900 million pipeline is underway and is scheduled for completion this year.