Group gathers at Army Corps General's Vancouver home to protest DAPL

Protesters gather in Portland, Oregon Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 to demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. (FILE - KATU Photo)

A group opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline gathered Monday morning in front of the home of Brigadier General Scott Spellmon, who is in charge of the Northwest Region of the Army Corps of Engineers.

His region includes the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline that would carry oil through four states – from western North Dakota to a shipping terminal in Illinois. It’s expected to cost $3.8 billion and is being built by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners.

Protesters have been rallying against construction since it began months ago over concerns of spill contamination and destruction of land in nearby areas like the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Others have different reasons for joining the protest, including demands for better consultation practices between the Corps and Native American tribes, or to take a stand against fossil fuels.

Those against the DAPL also say the Army Corps allowed construction permits for smaller sections of the pipeline, instead of a large permit for the entire project. Spellmon tells KATU News he denies letting oil companies dodge regulations.

"I would like to know specifically where they think we've turned a blind eye. And I can certainly guarantee you we have not," Spellmon said.

Energy Transfer Partners has said no sites have been disturbed and that the pipeline will have safeguards against leaks, and is a safer method of transport for oil than rail or truck. The company has said the pipeline is largely complete except for the section under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir where work has been on hold by order of federal agencies.

Spellmon weighs heavily on a technical report on the engineering and risk of the project that could determine on whether the pipeline can proceed.

“I won’t make a decision on this particular easement,” Spellmon said. “Our recommendation went out in July, and since that time we’ve been answering additional questions for our senior leaders.”

He said they expect to send out the next set of responses in the next two weeks. The Army will make the final decision; he didn’t have an estimate on when that would be.

The nearly two dozen people that gathered Monday morning wanted to send a personal message to the local leader of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The group left notes and led prayers saying they hoped to encourage Spellmon and the Corps to “make decisions that are in the best interest of all people.”

Spellmon told KATU News that he is encouraging members of the group from Monday morning to talk with him at his office.

“I’m happy to meet with anyone from the media, anyone from the protest community either in my office or when I am travelling to talk about these issues that we are working through,” Spellmon said.

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