Anyone surprised by Barack Obama’s last-minute decision to pass on the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline hasn’t been paying attention. Going to war, even with foes of fossil fuels, has rarely appealed to the man who prefers to lead from behind. Rather than provoke the wrath of environmentalists so late in the game, Mr. Obama is determined to punt and run out the clock. It will fall to Donald Trump to take on those who forced the president to take a knee. Once he takes office, the new president must not duck.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has balked at issuing a final permit enabling builders of the pipeline to bore beneath North Dakota’s Lake Oahe to finish the $3.8 billion project. The 1,134-mile pipeline, connecting the North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to storage tanks in Illinois, has triggered protests by members of the Standing Rock Sioux who contend the pipeline would despoil their ancestral homeland and threaten their water supply. Their concerns appear to be exaggerated; the pipeline would pass no closer than to a half-mile of tribal property. Their home “where the buffalo roam” would remain untouched.