North Dakotan officials may be fighting back against Native American protesters trying to stop the construction of a major oil pipeline. The Forum Communications News Service reported Monday that the state's homeland security department took its water tanks and trailers from the site of the Standing Rock Sioux demonstration despite the intense summer heat.
"I feel like I just got shot down," protester Johnelle Leingang told the News Service, adding that the saw the decision as "hurtful."
The government cited safety and legal concerns in withdrawing its equipment, but the action is likely part of an ongoing battle with the Native Americans, who have organized to show their opposition to a $3.8-billion pipeline that would run near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation there. Thousands of tribe members and supporters have gathered to demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which they allege could contaminate their water supply and ruin historically significant sites as it transports crude oil to Illinois, the Huffington Post reported.
The developers insist that's not the case. "Our goal is to provide safe and reliable transportation of crude oil in the communities we cross and to the customers we serve," Energy Transfer Partners wrote on its website. "As an operating principle, Dakota Access Pipeline is committed to working with individual landowners to make accommodations, minimize disruptions and achieve full restoration of impacted land."
Work on the pipeline started Aug. 10 but was suspended when activists surrounded the construction workers. The developers filed a lawsuit on Aug. 15 requesting restraining orders and damages.
Since then, tensions have escalated. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told InsideClimate News the protesters have used pipe bombs, lasers and weapons to get their point across, but the demonstrators rejected the claims. Protesters have also set up camp in the area, congregating in teepees and setting up portable bathrooms.
"All the way around, this pipeline is wrong. My business is on hold, and I will be out here for as long as it takes," Carlos Castaneda told the Associated Press.
The Guardian reported that a federal hearing regarding the Standing Rock Sioux's request for an injunction is scheduled for Wednesday.