Pipeline 'morally unacceptable' say US Jesuits

Protesters at Standing Rock. Fibonacci Blue/Flickr
Protesters at Standing Rock. Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

The Jesuits in the USA and Canada have described as “morally unacceptable” the decision by the US Army Corps to resume the process that would establish a pipeline that would cross under the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. They claim that it would violate the rights of the indigenous peoples and would threaten their water supplies.

In a statement from the Jesuit Conference of the USA and Canada, the Society of Jesus, together with the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation and St Francis Mission on the Rosebud Reservation, state that they are deeply concerned by the recent decision of the US Army Corps of Engineers concerning the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Suspending the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process previously ordered by the Obama Administration, which would have determined the safety, environmental and climate impacts of the pipeline and alternative route crossings, is morally unacceptable,” the statement said. “It is particularly troubling given the Army Corps' previous determination that the pipeline crossing affects tribal treaty rights and that more study and consultation with tribes is required.”

A fundamental human right

The planned Dakota Access Pipeline would transport 470,000 barrels of oil per day 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois. Protesters called for a stop of the pipeline construction which will pass upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. Along with the threat to their water supply, the tribe claims the pipeline will destroy burial sites and sacred places.A protester against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Fibonacci Blue/Creative Comms

"Jesuits have been working beside and ministering to native peoples for centuries,” said Fr Timothy Kesicki SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference. “We stand in solidarity with native peoples in Standing Rock and around the world who are advocating for environmental and human rights in the face of extractive industry projects. Like Pope Francis, we recognize that water is a fundamental human right."

According to the statement, the decision to issue an easement allowing the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is a direct response to President Trump's January 24 Presidential Memorandum urging the Army Corps to expedite the review and approval process. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Missouri Tribal Nations have raised significant concerns about potential threats to their water supply and their legitimate rights as sovereign governments to be consulted and heard in the permitting process. Lake Oahe and the Missouri River provide drinking water for the tribe and surrounding regions and millions of people living downstream from the project.

People over profit

"The injustice facing native people at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is emblematic of perennial concerns facing indigenous communities nationally and globally due to an economy of exclusion,” said Fr Kesicki. “As the Society of Jesus emphasized at our recent 36th General Congregation, the current economic system with its predatory orientation discards natural resources as well as people ... The direction of development must be altered if it is to be sustainable. We must prioritize the needs of people over profit, promoting human dignity and care for creation and pursuing integral human development."

He went on to invite people of good will, as well as members of Congress to call on the Administration to reverse this decision and applauded those members of the House and Senate Natural Resources Committees who have done so.