Lake Oahe easement-DAPL

Courtesy Dr0ne2bewild Shiyé Bidziil/Vimeo

Energy Transfer Partners drill pad for tunneling under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, in November 2016.

Tribes Petition to Shut Down DAPL

Standing Rock Sioux and Northern Cheyenne want to stop Dakota Access oil flow

The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, have requested that the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) be shut down while a U.S. District Court Judge decides whether to mandate further environmental review.

The tribes’ attorneys, with the environmental law firm EarthJustice, filed the motion in U.S. District Court on August 7, supported by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and other Native organizations.

It’s the latest turn in what has become a nearly two-year journey for the Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, which achieved a significant win on June 14 when Judge James Boasberg of the District of Columbia District Court directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”

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In a follow-up status hearing on June 21, Boasberg ordered Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) and the corps to submit arguments by July 17 explaining why he should not shut down the pipeline pending a potential new environmental analysis. He also gave the co-plaintiff tribes until August 7 to respond. All have now done so, and Boasberg is considering the submissions.

Army Corps lawyers have argued that the two authorizations issued for constructing the last portion of the pipeline should stay in place. The Corps said stopping of the flow of oil in the pipeline would be “unnecessary and inappropriate,” holding that the Corps most likely will come to the same safety conclusions that it did with its initial, more superficial analysis—that the pipeline is safe to operate and that stopping the pipeline would hurt ETP substantially.

ETP lawyers said the Corps had not thoroughly explained the reasons behind its decision to grant the easements for drilling under Lake Oahe on the Missouri River, but that the decision is still sound, and should stand.

In their counter argument, Earth Justice attorneys Jan Hasselman and Nicole Ducheneaux said the Corps “failed to address serious expert critiques of Dakota Access Pipeline’s oil spill risk analysis,” disregarded the tribes’ existential rights to hunt and fish, and provided a “skewed assessment” in saying that the location of the pipeline “raised no environmental justice concerns.”

They called for the Corps to conduct the full environmental impact statement that had been initiated in December 2016 by the administration of President Barack Obama but abandoned under Trump.

“Both the Corps and [ETP] have made it abundantly clear that they will treat the remand as a paper exercise designed to generate additional explanation for decisions already made,” the EarthJustice attorneys said. “Such an approach would make a mockery of the National Environmental Policy Act, which calls for an objective and open-minded analysis of environmental impacts before, and in order to inform, agency decisions.”

The case is now in the hands of Boasberg, who is expected to rule by September on at least part of the case while the new environmental review that he ordered in June is conducted.

  • Loren C.

    “stopping the pipeline would hurt ETP substantially.” Aw, poor little oily billionaires. What about the people who depend directly on Lake Oahe for food and water?

    Never mind the hundreds of little white towns that said “not in our backyard” to DAPL and got it rerouted away from their drinking water without much trouble at all ( Oh well; we can just go through injun country.

    This pipeline is all about reinforcing that racist double standard and further encroaching on Indigenous sovereignty. If you look at the map, it seems that they actually went out of their way to create this conflict. The most direct route would not have crossed the Missouri at all, but the pipeline makes a loop of many extra miles and crosses the river or close tributaries no less than four times before even getting to Lake Oahe! Maybe the company was trying to service several processing facilities all at once, but that’s not the problem of the Standing Rock Sioux, or the City of Bismark, for that matter. They could have started at Trenton Facility and run oil the other direction.

    Even without talking about the inherent dangers of oil transport, and the particularly corrosive dangers of Bakken crude, a route northeast of the current one would have been a lot safer and provoked less conflict.

  • Lisa F.

    Shut the pipeline down. Its as illegal against the Indian people & against the very laws in place. Its as illegal as Trumps very existance as a so called president & his financial matters. Your support is strong!

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Tribes Petition to Shut Down DAPL