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Court Orders Dakota Access Pipeline to Shut Down in Major Win for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

The decision, handed down by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Monday, is being seen as a major victory for the Native American tribes and environmentalist organizations.

Elias Marat

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A U.S. federal court has ordered the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to immediately halt operations and evacuate all oil from the pipeline over concerns about its likely environmental impact and the potentially existential risk it poses to the land belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The decision, handed down by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Monday, is being seen as a major victory for the Native American tribes and environmentalist organizations who have waged a high-profile fight to prevent the major pipeline’s route from crossing through the Standing Rock Sioux’s main water supply.

The court order also comes on the heels of the cancellation of another major U.S. pipeline project on Sunday in a stunning rebuke of the Trump administration’s push to lift environmental regulations for the benefit of domestic fossil fuel extractors.

“It took four long years, but today justice has been served at Standing Rock,” said Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attorney Jan Hasselman in a press release. “If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.”

The ruling found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and willfully ignored the catastrophic consequences of a potential oil spill when it permitted Energy Transfer LP to construct and operate a section of the pipeline lying directly beneath Lake Oahe in South Dakota without even producing an adequate Environmental Impact Statement, reports Reuters.

“Given the seriousness of the Corps’ NEPA error, the impossibility of a simple fix, the fact that Dakota Access did assume much of its economic risk knowingly, and the potential harm each day the pipeline operates, the Court is forced to conclude that the flow of oil must cease,” the order said.

The court ordered Energy Transfer to begin winding down the 570,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) pipeline within 30 days, effectively sealing off the largest artery for the transportation of crude oil from the North Dakota Bakken shale basin to the Midwest and Gulf Coast.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith described the occasion as historic for his tribe and for the myriad supporters who have supported the anti-DAPL fight over the past several years.

“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” Faith said. “This pipeline should have never been built here. We told them that from the beginning.”

Energy Transfer plans to continue fighting to avoid a shutdown through legal and administrative measures, and will appeal the decision as a last resort.

It will likely take about thirteen months to produce an Environmental Impact Statement, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. However, it remains unknown whether an EIS would actually be enough to save the pipeline, which has been operating for roughly three years.

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“The Court does not reach its decision with blithe disregard for the lives it will affect. It readily acknowledges that, even with the currently low demand for oil, shutting down the pipeline will cause significant disruption to DAPL, the North Dakota oil industry, and potentially other states,” Boasberg wrote in his order.

In the meantime, the Trump administration, conservative politicians, and oil industry groups have blamed activists and accused them of seeking to sabotage the U.S. economy.

 “I’m not quite sure what they’re cheering except for perhaps the loss of jobs all throughout America,” U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette told Fox Business Network.

“Shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline would have devastating consequences to North Dakota and to America’s energy security. This terrible ruling should be promptly appealed,” said Trump ally and North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer.

However, environmentalists have unabashedly hailed the pipeline setbacks as victories in the fight to prevent the potentially disastrous consequences of the pipeline’s operations.

“Energy Transfer’s Dakota Access Pipeline and other environmentally reckless fossil fuel infrastructure projects will only make billionaires richer while the rest of us suffer,” said Greenpeace USA Climate Director Janet Redman in a statement. “Today’s ruling — arriving on the heels of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline victory — may be a calamity for oil and gas executives looking to profit from the disastrous climate crisis, but it’s a huge win for those of us committed to a liveable world.”

“The past 24 hours have sent a loud and clear message to fossil fuel corporations still committed to constructing dangerous pipelines — the future does not belong to you,” Redman added.

https://twitter.com/FireDrillFriday/status/1280196871537995777

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Animals

Scientists Shocked After Discovering ‘Strange Creatures’ Nearly a Mile Under Antarctic Ice Shelf

Elias Marat

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The perplexing community of alien-like creatures wasn’t supposed to be there.

Roughly a mile beneath the icy surface of Antarctica in a remote region 160 miles from sunlight, scientists have accidentally discovered a perplexing set of bizarre creatures, perplexing the researchers who believed the area to be a wasteland wholly devoid of life.

Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey had drilled through 3,000 ft. of ice after melting 20 tons of snow to scoop up seafloor sediment before dropping a camera into the frigid ocean below. However, they soon realized that their tunnel had been dug right above a boulder at the bottom of the ocean, rendering it impossible to gather any sediment.

However, to the shock of the researchers, their camera was able to discover an ecosystem of life that left them confounded with what Wired described as “strange creatures” – two types of filter feeding sea sponges that had never been encountered, dwelling in the – 28.04°F (-2.2°C) water where researchers had believed that no life was possible.

The strange species dwelling in the pitch black waters are living over 200 miles from any known food source, but the creatures still appear to be prospering in spite of the treacherous conditions of the Antarctic sea floor.

The discovery of the strange sea sponges shows just how little we still know about one of the only unexplored regions of the world – and the forms of life that thrive there – where gigantic ice shelves that often rival the size of entire countries have prevented researchers from studying what lies below.

The team’s study laying out the jaw-dropping discovery was published Monday in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

“It’s not the most exciting-looking rock—if you don’t know where it is,” British Antarctic Survey biologist Dr. Huw Griffiths told Wired.

Indeed, on close inspection the rock wasn’t only home to the bizarre alien-like sponges – including some shaped like cylinders – but also a film of bacteria known as a microbial mat and a range of stalked organism. Their source of sustenance is what left the scientists befuddled.

Animals that live sessile (or stationary) lives typically rely on a stable supply of food known as “marine snow” – the detritus and remains, sometimes as small as particles, of decomposed sea creatures that sink to the depths of the ocean. Anyone with their own aquarium can imagine what this marine snow looks like.

However, while the source of food might not be apparent, the scientists are guessing that underwater currents are washing in miniscule bits of organic matter from ecosystems that could be as distant as 390 to 930 miles away.

This all still remains a matter of speculation until the next expedition can study this mysterious underwater community much closer. Yet the scientists are eager to find out what these bizarre creatures are and how they ended up in the region in such an inhospitable region in the first place.

“Are they all eating the same food source?” Griffiths asked. “Or are some of them kind of getting nutrients from each other? Or are there more mobile animals around somehow providing food for this community?”

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Environment

Breathtaking Video Shows Monstrous Avalanche Barrel Down Toward Snowmobilers

Elias Marat

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Gut-wrenching video has gone viral that shows a massive avalanche barreling toward snowmobilers in Utah on Saturday, but the entire group managed to narrowly survive the massive onslaught that nearly closed in on them.

The group had been riding through the Uinta Mountains before the avalanche struck, according to striking video of the aftermath posted to Instagram by snowmobiler Miles Penrose (@backcountrymiles).

“Today we were riding in the Uintas, the snow was great up high and it was finally feeling like we had some base,” Penrose wrote, adding that he had been riding in that part of the mountains since he was 8 years old and was highly familiar with the conditions of the region.

“My brother and I were playing on the side of a hill in the a tree area where [we] have ridden 30-40 times in years past,” he continued.

“As I finished recording my brother playing in the pow, the mountain shook,” Penrose added.

“My original thought was… earthquake. Then it [hit] me, avalanche,” he said.

The terrifying event was also recorded by their friend Nate, who was accompanying them during the ordeal.

As the snow was barreling down the mountain, a man in the video can be heard screaming “Avalanche!”

“Oh sh*t, that’s coming to us,” the terrified man also said.

After Nate can be seen making a mad dash to pull away on his sled to escape the avalanche, the camera suddenly goes dark.

According to Penrose, his safety gear failed to deploy because it had not been turned on. However, he was still swept off his feet by the snow by about 20 yards and was basically “swimming” in the deluge.

Penrose was buried up to his chest in the snow before he fortunately was able to dig himself out. He then rescued his brother, who was buried just up to the top of his head.

“[Then] came the radio chatter,” Penrose said. “Where is everyone at? Was everyone okay? We didn’t realize it but the avalanche had triggered even bigger on the other side of trees where we were.”

Three other party members also managed to survive the terrifying event.

 The avalanche was the second to strike in Utah on that day.

In Mill Creek Canyon, which lies halfway across the state from the Uinta Mountains, eight people from two separate were skiing back country before seven of them were struck by a massive avalanche.

Four of the skiers – two people from each group – were killed. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the skiers “were young Utahns who reveled in the state’s beauty, pursuing adventures from its ski slopes to its redrock country.”

CNN reports that the four deaths are the most recent in a series of recent deaths caused by avalanches across three states, with the latest deaths bringing the number of fatalities to nine.

Just last week, a man in Utah was killed after being caught in an avalanche near Park City Mountains Canyons Village, just a few miles from the Mill Creek avalanche.

Three other skiers, all local officials, were also killed in an avalanche in Colorado last Monday. Their bodies weren’t recovered until Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, the body of a skier was recovered following an avalanche at the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

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Environment

Biden Expected to Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline Permit on Day One

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President-elect Joe Biden is reportedly planning on the day of his inauguration to rescind a federal permit allowing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the United States, a move environmentalists said would represent an immense victory for the planet attributable to years of tireless Indigenous-led opposition to the dirty-energy project.

CBC News reported Sunday that “the words ‘Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit’ appear on a list of executive actions supposedly scheduled for Day One of Biden’s presidency,” which begins with his swearing-in on Wednesday. The withdrawal of the Keystone XL permit is among several environment-related actions Biden plans to take via executive order during his first day in office, a list that includes rejoining the Paris climate accord.

“A huge victory for Lakota and Indigenous front liners and Water Protectors. None of this would have been possible without their sacrifices,” Nick Estes, a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and an assistant professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico, tweeted in response to Biden’s reported plan for Keystone XL, a sprawling $8 billion tar sands project that the Trump administration repeatedly sought to advance amid legal challenges and widespread grassroots resistance.

Kendall Mackey, Keep It in the Ground campaign manager for 350.org, said in a statement late Sunday that preventing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. would be a “momentous sign” that Biden “is listening, taking action, and making good on his promises to people and the planet.”

“This decision to halt the Keystone XL pipeline on day one in office sets a precedent that all permitting decisions must pass a climate test and respect Indigenous rights,” said Mackey. “We expect the administration to make similar announcements on Dakota Access Pipeline and Line 3. We celebrate this great victory and the powerful movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

“By ensuring that Keystone XL is reversed,” Mackey continued, “Biden is standing on the side of tribal nations, farmers, ranchers, and many communities whose livelihoods would be wrecked by this dirty pipeline.”

News of Biden’s Inauguration Day plan was met with howls of protest from right-wing Canadian politicians such as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who issued a statement Sunday threatening legal action if Biden follows through on yanking the permit for Keystone XL, owned by Canada-based company TC Energy. Last March, as Common Dreams reported, the government of Alberta committed around $1.1 billion USD to the pipeline project.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden may repeal the presidential permit for the Keystone XL border crossing,” Kenney tweeted, a response that was immediately panned by climate activists.

In a last-ditch effort to rescue its long-delayed Keystone XL project, TC Energy is reportedly “committing to spend $1.7 billion on solar, wind, and battery power to operate the partially completed 2,000-mile pipeline system between Alberta, in western Canada, and Texas,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The attempt to brand Keystone XL as an environmentally friendly and sustainable energy project was swiftly ridiculed, with one journalist accusing TC Energy of a “desperate” effort to put “lipstick on its pig.”

Dallas Goldtooth, Keep It in the Ground campaign organizer for the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in response to Biden’s plan to rescind the pipeline permit that “our communities have been fighting KXL for over a decade, tooth and nail, in the dirt and in the courts.”

“We formed an immensely powerful, unlikely alliance of voices and we never gave up,” said Goldtooth. “I will wait for the ink to dry before I fully celebrate, but s*** this feels good.”

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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