U.S. Sen. Tom Udall weighed in on the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, joining his fellow U.S. Senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich.
The incoming vice-chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking the president to consider re-routing the pipeline and also said he was “disturbed by the increasingly aggressive and violent tactics that have been used against” protesters.
Udall noted that he condemned the use of violence against protesters in a letter to Obama three months ago and said he appreciated Obama temporarily halting the project.
“[T]he violence at the protest site has continued, with law enforcement and private security forces using inexcusable means against peaceful demonstrators, including rubber bullets, attack dogs and even water cannons in sub-freezing temperatures,” Udall wrote. “Many of the protesters are from New Mexico Tribes, and one of those seriously injured was a Navajo woman from Arizona who was shot in the face with a rubber bullet.”
The Navajo Nation spans across large portions of Arizona and New Mexico, as well as part of Utah.
“Protesters have a right to make their voices heard peacefully, and the Department of Justice should redouble its efforts to prevent civil rights abuses and prevent the situation from becoming tragic,” Udall’s letter reads. “Finally, all New Mexicans, Tribal members or not, know that water is life, and so I am calling on the president to take action before the end of his term to find a positive resolution to this situation by considering all available options to protect Tribal resources, including re-routing the pipeline to better safeguard water quality.”
Udall noted that the pipeline was moved once before, when the city of Bismarck, North Dakota voiced concerns about the proximity of the pipeline to water sources.
“The Standing Rock Sioux and surrounding neighbors deserve the same respect,” Udall wrote.
Udall’s letter echoes recent comments by Heinrich.
On Thanksgiving, Heinrich called on Obama to move the pipeline. And on Wednesday, shortly before Udall released his letter, Heinrich released a letter to Obama denouncing the tactics used by those seeking to stop protesters.