EDITOR'S NOTE: KOIN 6 News reporter Cole Miller and photojournalist Bill Cortez are in NorthDakota to cover the developing story surrounding the Dakota Access pipeline. Stay with KOIN 6 News for his reports this week.
CANNON BALL, N.D. (KOIN) — Thousands of people are still camping out at the site of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, despite nasty weather and news that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will re-route the project.
KOIN 6 News reporter Cole Miller is in North Dakota to cover the continued protests, but couldn't reach the camps at Standing Rock Monday night due to severe weather.
Meanwhile, the Standing Rock Sioux chairman says activists are staying put.
"What we see has never been seen before in the written history of our people," tribesman Chase Iron Eyes said. "We have never known a time when non-native American allies have come here in the dead of winter to stand with us, to stand together to call for a new day."
The Army's refusal to grant a permit for the Dakota Access oil pipeline to cross beneath the Missouri River has focused more attention on alternative routes, but several other options already have been considered and rejected as being more risky and expensive.
In a statement Monday, Energy Transfer Partners called the Army's decision "purely political" adding that they've done "nothing but play by the rules" and that they "fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting."
Police officers and sheriff's deputies say they're backing off, for now.
"If you go down there, you're going to see nothing," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said. "What you'll see are barricades, barries, wires from keeping people. You're not going to see a law enforcement officer."
A blizzard warning is in effect for the area until Tuesday evening.
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE PIPELINE?
Nearly all of the 1,172-mile, $3.8 billion pipeline has been built by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners except for a mile-long section across federal land and beneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. But the project is in limbo because the Army suggested Sunday that it now needs a more detailed environmental review than it received initially.
The pipeline is designed to carry oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Patoka, Illinois. State regulators in all four states approved the route through their territory. The proposed route skirts the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border, and the tribe objects to the project, saying it could threaten drinking water and destroy sacred sites.
ARE THERE OTHER ROUTES AVAILABLE?
The company examined other routes when federal regulators conducted their initial environmental review. Energy Transfer Partners and the Army Corps of Engineers agreed initially that the proposed route appeared to be the safest and most cost-effective path. The initial review looked at factors including the number of water crossings, how close the route came to homes and whether it crossed wetlands.
In North Dakota, the Dakota Access route parallels the existing Northern Border Pipeline, which carries natural gas from Canada across the Dakotas to the Chicago area. The Dakota Access pipeline would use a nearly identical route to cross Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock reservation.
One alternative the company considered called for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, about 50 miles upstream of the current path. That option was rejected because it was 10 miles longer and required more water and road crossings. It was also estimated to cost $22.6 million more than the current route.
DOES ANOTHER ROUTE HAVE SUPPORT?
Energy Transfer Partners doesn't want to reroute the pipeline, which was originally expected to be completed before the end of this year. The company says delaying the project a year would cost it $1.4 billion in lost revenue. CEO Kelcy Warren told The Associated Press last month that the company doesn't see another way to complete the project besides the current route.
Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault has said the tribe does not oppose oil pipelines if they do not threaten water sources, environmentally sensitive areas or sacred sites. He said a route that would follow existing west-east and north-south oil pipeline corridors that avoid Missouri River crossings would be acceptable to him.
HOW WILL THE TRUMP ADMINSTRATION AFFECT THE PROJECT?
President-elect Donald Trump wouldn't say Monday whether he will try to overturn the permit decision that has delayed the pipeline. Trump has said he supports the pipeline, and he holds stock in Energy Transfer Partners. Trump spokesman Jason Miller said the new administration would review the Army's decision after it takes office in January.
WHAT ARE THE PIPELINE'S PROSPECTS?
Energy analyst Afolabi Ogunnaike with the Wood Mackenzie consulting firm said it appears to be a question of how long it takes for the project to regain approval and whether the route will have to be adjusted.
"Our expectation is that the Dakota Access pipeline will go forward. I think what's unclear is the path it will take and when it will start up," he said.
Associated Press writer James MacPherson contributed to this report from North Dakota.