BISMARCK, N.D. (CBS NEWS) - The head of a Texas company building the controversial $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline told employees Tuesday that it is committed to the project despite strong opposition and a federal order to halt construction near an American Indian reservation in North Dakota.
Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren said in a memo to employees that the four-state, 1,172-mile project is nearly 60 percent complete and that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded.” The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others argue the project will impact drinking water for thousands of tribal members and millions downstream.
“I am confident that as long as the government ultimately decides the fate of the project based on science and engineering, the Dakota Access Pipeline will become operational ... So we will continue to obey the rules and trust the process,” he wrote.
Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II said he and the thousands of others who have gathered at an encampment in southern North Dakota to protest won’t budge.
“People are still coming down here and are committed to stopping the project,” he said.
Warren’s memo, which was released to some media outlets, is the first time in months the company has provided significant details of the project. The company often has ignored requests for comment from The Associated Press.
“Our corporate mindset has long been to keep our head down and do our work,” his memo said. “It has not been my preference to engage in a media/PR battle. However, misinformation has dominated the news, so we will work to communicate with the government and media more clearly in the days to come.”
The Standing Rock Sioux is challenging the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to grant about 200 permits at water crossings for pipeline, which goes through the Dakotas and Iowa to Illinois. The tribe says the project will disturb sacred sites and impact drinking water.
Wikaya Eagleman of the Sicangu Lakota, told CBS News: “They just came in and destroyed it.”