Like a holiday choir hitting a flat note, the response from North Dakota politicians to the federal decision to withhold a permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline did little to enhance the state's role in finding an ultimate solution to protests that have stalled the project for months. Gov. Jack Dalrymple and members of the state's congressional delegation seemed numbingly content to blame the Obama administration for the Department of the Army's decision to call for more federal review of alternative pipeline routes, which presumably will move the crossing of the Missouri River far enough away from tribal lands to satisfy the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Blaming the administration is political pandering that firmly locks North Dakota politicians into their comfort zones. But it is not a solution to a problem that is not going away simply because a federal permit will not be forthcoming-at least for a while.

Like it or not, the fed decision allows a cooling off period during which protesters can leave the camps south of Mandan near Cannon Ball, N.D. The law enforcement presence can be ratcheted way down. Roads can open. The fear that has plagued nearby farms and ranches will abate. The interlopers from out of state, many of whom have their own agendas for joining the protests, likely will leave because without confrontations there will be no headlines, TV pictures and "advocacy" reporting tilted to favor protesters.

But the issues that animated the protesters and forced state and federal officials to take another look at the pipeline permitting process have not been sufficiently addressed. It's all on hold. For how long? The state's congressional delegation-Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer and Sen. John Hoeven, and Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp-seems to think President-elect Donald Trump's statements favoring completion of the pipeline will make everything peachy-keen in a couple of weeks. Dreamers all, if Trump reverses the decision to delay the permit.

Does anyone believe the tribe and its allies will go quietly away if the new president pushes for the pipeline crossing location that fired up the protest? Or, will a more savvy President Trump allow the revisited federal permit process, including a thorough environmental impact statement, to proceed as ordered by the Obama administration? In other words, go with the cooling-off period.

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If, however, the new president does what at least two of the state's congressional delegation and state officials favor-issue a permit for the controversial crossing right now-the protesters return and the situation reverts to confrontation, more law enforcement and the potential for more violence.

If a President Trump opts to avoid sparking more protest, the irony would be in the praise Hoeven, Heitkamp and Cramer would heap on the new president for essentially doing what Obama is doing.

Stay tuned.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.