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Company: Dakota Access pipeline could move oil in 2017

James MacPherson
Associated Press

Bismarck, N.D. — The company building the $3.8 billion Dakota Access oil pipeline said Monday that it expects to finish construction by Dec. 1, except for a small disputed section in North Dakota, and could begin moving crude early next year if the government gives final approval.

In an email to The Associated Press, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners said it would finish the pipeline within 120 days of getting approval for an easement beneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota. President Barack Obama’s administration hasn’t announced whether it will support the easement, but ultimate approval seems a near certainty with Donald Trump, a pipeline supporter, set to take office in January.

The 1,172-mile pipeline is intended to carry North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.

Also Monday, officials locked down the North Dakota Capitol after pipeline opponents gathered there, one day before groups planned more than 200 protests at Army Corps of Engineers offices and other sites across the country.

The federal government hasn’t been silent on the dispute. The Army Corps of Engineers is reconsidering its decision to allow the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River in light of tribal complaints, and Obama has said his administration is monitoring the situation.

The Corps did not respond to questions Monday about when the administration intended to decide on approval for the project.

Nearly 470 protesters have been arrested supporting the Standing Rock Sioux, who believe the pipeline threatens drinking water and cultural sites.

ETP said it has suffered losses “in the millions” to vandalized equipment along the pipeline route in North Dakota. The company said it was taking steps to protect the pipeline from vandalism, but declined to disclose details.

The rallies set for Tuesday at such places as state Army Corps offices, federal buildings and offices of banks that have helped finance the project are seeking to draw Obama’s attention.

The groups, including the Indigenous Environmental Network, Honor the Earth and Greenpeace USA, want Obama to permanently halt the construction of the pipeline, the focus of confrontations between police and protesters in North Dakota for months.

A United Nations group that represents indigenous people around the world said the U.S. government appears to be ignoring the treaty rights and human rights of American Indians opposing the pipeline.

The Nov. 4 statement from the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues called on the government to “protect the traditional lands and sacred sites of the Standing Rock Sioux and uphold their human rights commitments.”

Forum member Edward John in late October visited a camp in North Dakota that’s drawn hundreds of protesters from around the globe. He said he found a “war zone” atmosphere and that “I felt as though I was in an armed conflict zone on foreign soil.”

Justice Department officials didn’t immediately comment Monday.