Sen.-elect Chris Van Hollen on Monday called on the Army Corps of Engineers to "deescalate" the standoff over a pipeline in North Dakota that has been the subject of months of demonstrations and reverse its decision to evict protesters.
Opponents of the pipeline are concerned about the potential effects on drinking water on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and farther downstream on the Missouri River, as well as destruction of cultural artifacts, including burial sites.
"The tribe was not adequately consulted about the route for the pipeline, which they believe will threaten their water supply and destroy sacred Native American cultural land and burial sites," Van Hollen said in Facebook post Monday.
"Rather than evict the protesters, the Army Corps should find a way to address the legitimate concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux," Van Hollen said.
Citing North Dakota's oncoming winter and increasingly contentious clashes between protesters and police, the Corps said last week in a letter that it was closing down the area to the public for "safety concerns" on Dec. 5. But federal officials have subsequently said they have no plans to forcibly remove protesters.
Former Maryland state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur on Monday was pressing fellow Democrats as well as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to speak up on the issue. Mizeur, who won support from many liberals in the state in her 2014 gubernatorial campaign, said she was personally calling lawmakers on the issue.
Mizeur endorsed Van Hollen in his Democratic primary race this year, severely undercutting rival Rep. Donna F. Edwards' claim to progressives in the state.
"I'm really upset about how our government is responding to the situation at Standing Rock," Mizeur wrote on Facebook. "These are peaceful protests, not a war zone. It is a spiritual prayer camp and they are being attacked by militarized police.
"The silence is deafening," she wrote.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, joined with other Democrats in October in a letter to President Barack Obama calling for a halt of the Dakota Access Pipeline until tribes are consulted.
The company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, has said the Obama administration has made the pipeline into a political issue and it has filed suit in federal court asking to proceed with the project.
The 1,172-mile pipeline is nearly complete except for a small section beneath a Missouri River reservoir near the encampment, which is about 50 miles south of Bismarck.
County and state officials have been seeking federal law enforcement help for months and were initially buoyed by the Corps' order for protesters to move off the land.
The Associated Press and Tribune Washington Bureau contributed to this report.