Celebrities Call on Biden and Harris to Shut Down Dakota Access Pipeline

Indigenous leaders, environmental groups, and stars including Cher and Robert Downey Jr. urge White House in letter.

A coalition of prominent celebrities, Indigenous leaders and environmental groups have written to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris urging them to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) which is operating without a legal permit.

Dakota Access Oil Pipeline (DAPL)
The Dakota Access Pipeline stretches from northwest North Dakota to southern Illinois, transporting about 500,000 barrels of crude oil each day. Last month, a judge ruled that the pipeline is operating illegally without the necessary federal permits. Photo by Tony Webster.

Actors, musicians and athletes including Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Cher, Cyndi Lauper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Aaron Rodgers, Jane Fonda, Joaquin Phoenix and Orlando Bloom are calling on the White House to close down the oil pipeline which poses serious environmental risks to tribal lands, water and wildlife, as well as indigenous cultural and religious practices.

The letter comes on the eve of a key court hearing which could lead to DAPL’s oil operations being suspended while the US army corps of engineers conducts a robust environmental impact review ordered by the court last year.

The president also faces pressure from a group of Lakota Native American youth who are today taking part in a 93-mile relay run across the Standing Rock Sioux Nation to the Cannonball River, the site of the #NoDAPL resistance camps in 2016.

The actions follow a wave of environmental justice and climate action policies announced by Biden since taking office which include cancelling the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline, rejoining the Paris agreement and halting construction of the southern border wall.

The letter, which is also signed by the Sunrise Movement, Indigenous Environmental Network, 350.org, Zero Hour and the Sierra Club, urges Biden and Harris to remedy what they refer to as a historic injustice.

“As your administration takes action to address the climate crisis and strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities, we respectfully urge you to reverse another harmful Trump administration decision and immediately shut down the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) during its court-ordered environmental review,” the letter states.

The grassroots movement to stop the DAPL pipeline has been one of the most high-profile indigenous rights and climate justice campaigns in recent years, triggering the Standing Rock protests in 2016 which were brutally repressed by security forces.

Since then, the DAPL, which stretches from North Dakota to Illinois, has been mired in permit and legal controversies.

Barack Obama halted the project not long before leaving office, only for Donald Trump to reverse his decision and fast-track construction despite ongoing litigation by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The pipeline was finished and currently transports about 500,000 barrels of crude oil each day, despite a court ruling ordering the army corps to conduct a robust environmental impact review – which should have been done before the project started.

Last month, a judge ruled that the pipeline is operating illegally without the necessary federal permits.

The court will on Wednesday hear evidence from the army corps before deciding whether to shut down the pipeline while the environmental review, which could take a year or so, is completed.

Biden has not spoken publicly about DAPL, but last May Harris signed an amicus brief and joined tribes in calling on a judge to shut it down while an environmental impact study is conducted.

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