The Corps of Engineers argued in court last week that those opposed to the pipeline had plenty of time to voice concerns during a review process, and that the project was legitimately approved. The company hired to build the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, added that it's a safer way of transporting oil compared to a rail line.
In 2015, the Fraser Institute in Canada found that transporting oil by pipeline is 4.5 times safer than transporting it by rail, reports Fortune. At the time, a Fraser representative commented that "saying 'No' to a pipeline is saying 'Yes' to rail," and this will "increase the risk to the environment and human health and not decrease it."
However, if the protests of Dakota Access manage to terminate its current implementation plan, it doesn't mean a rail line will automatically be the alternative. The Corps of Engineers could agree to reroute the pipeline to avoid affecting tribal lands instead.
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James A. Boasberg of United States District Court who is overseeing the case, said he will make a decision on whether or not to halt the project by September 9. Some protesters have vowed to stand their ground until that decision comes through.
Clyde Bellecourt is one of them. He's Ojibwe from Minnesota and he helped found the American Indian Movement which became famous for the 71-day siege in Wounded Knee, South Dakota in 1973. Bellecourt is 80 years old now and said this time he's fighting for future generations of Native Americans.
"My life is almost over, but there's fresh energy here," he told the LA Times. "Save the children – that's what this is all about."
Some of those young people are also part of the protest. Jasilyn Charger is only 20 years old but has been committed to this cause since its beginning as a small prayer group along the river. Charger is one of the runners that participated in a 2,000-mile relay race from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. to march in protest of the Dakota Access pipeline in front of the White House.
"When we started this, people thought we were crazy," she told the LA Times. "But look at where we are today."