The Trump administration quickly overturned the December 2016 decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to halt the construction of the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline — almost as quickly as Trump took office. Subsequent challenges in court failed to prevent the pipeline from being completed and going into operation. Rather than concede defeat, Water Protectors have shifted their focus and efforts to battling the oil and coal industry on different fronts.
On the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the Water Protector camps are no longer standing, but some organizers who lived and organized in those camps are now shaping the movement to shift the reservation away from its dependence on fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.
In 1956, the Standing Rock Sioux sued the Army Corps of Engineers and was promised — as part of the settlement over the creation of dams on the Missouri River that stole part of the reservation’s land and resources — free electricity for the reservation. Instead, the reservation pays some of the highest rates for electricity in both North and South Dakota. Some residents pay $1,000 a month in electric bills, even as more than 40 percent of individuals on the reservation live below the poverty line.
In order to alleviate these steep electricity bills and the reservation’s dependence on electric companies charging high rates for usage, the reservation is working toward creating a mandatory renewable energy standard, where, by 2030, 50 percent of North and South Dakota’s energy will come from renewable resources, with a long-term goal of total renewable use. Currently, the majority of electricity in North Dakota is powered by coal.