In Victory for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Court Finds That Approval of Dakota Access Pipeline Violated the Law
Ruling: Trump administration shortcut environmental review; Court seeks additional briefing on whether to shut down pipeline
Washington, D.C. —
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a significant victory today in its fight to protect the Tribe’s drinking water and ancestral lands from the Dakota Access pipeline.
A federal judge ruled that the federal permits authorizing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock reservation, which were hastily issued by the Trump administration just days after the inauguration, violated the law in certain critical respects.
In a 91-page decision, Judge James Boasberg wrote, “the Court agrees that [the Corps] did not adequately 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.” The Court did not determine whether pipeline operations should be shut off and has requested additional briefing on the subject and a status conference next week.
“This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II in a recent statement. “The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests. We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.”
The Tribe’s inspiring and courageous fight has attracted international attention and drawn the support of hundreds of tribes around the nation.
The Tribe is represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, which filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for issuing a permit for the pipeline construction in violation of several environmental laws.
“This decision marks an important turning point. Until now, the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump administration—prompting a well-deserved global outcry,” said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman. “The federal courts have stepped in where our political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities.”
The Court ruled against the Tribe on several other issues, finding that the reversal allowing the pipeline complied with the law in some respects.
The $3.8 billion pipeline project, also known as Bakken Oil Pipeline, extends 1,168 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, crossing through communities, farms, tribal land, sensitive natural areas and wildlife habitat. The pipeline would carry up to 570,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois where it links with another pipeline that will transport the oil to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
For more background on this case, read the FAQ on this litigation.
Federal Judge Concludes Dakota Access Pipeline Build Illegal
In spite of extensive resistance led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and regardless of President Obama eventually deciding to nix the building and construction of it, Trump resurrected the Dakota Access oil pipeline(DAPL)during his first week as Commander-in-Chief, triggering dismay at the time.Now, it appears a federal judge may have just provided a last-minute reprieve. Discussing his choice in a sizable legal opinion, Washington DC District Court Judge James Boasberg has actually agreed the tribes, agreeing that the Army Corps of Engineers building DAPL cannot think about the impacts of any oil spills on “fishing rights, searching rights, or environmental justice. “In previous cases, the Sioux argued that the pipeline’s building would threaten sites of cultural and historic significance, and that the presence of oil would desecrate the spiritual waters of Lake Oahe and would infringe on their spiritual practices. These arguments were effectively thrown away of court, so they turned to the more tangible environmental effects as the focus of their legal argument.”The Tribes believe that the Corps did not adequately consider the pipeline’s ecological effects prior to approving authorizations to Dakota Access to construct and operate DAPL under Lake Oahe, a federally managed waterway,”the justice notes. To an extent,”the Court concurs,”discussing that “this volley fulfills with some degree of success.” This means that the Corps will need to do an ecological assessment of the pipeline, which at least will put a spotlight on
their plight when again. The judge’s decision, however, does not imply that construction needs to be halted– in fact, it’s basically complete, and oil started streaming earlier this month.The question of whether the oil flow ought to be stopped may depend upon an upcoming lawsuit: Next week, the DAPL’s owner Energy Transfer Partners is due to do battle as soon as more with the Tribes based upon this latest legal decision.In any case, this declaration is a considerable triumph for both the Tribes and ecologists who have wished for a sign of hope after it was all-but-crushed when Trump reversed Obama’s earlier decision.Since it was announced, the 1,900-kilometer (1,200-mile )pipeline running from the oil fields of North Dakota to a refinery in Illinois has actually triggered a storm of controversy, as has its cousin, the Keystone XL pipeline. Owned by issues over environment
modification, protesters stood with the Sioux as they were aghast at the thought of oil being driven through their ancestral lands and primary water source.Will the Tribes now prevail in the courts and get DAPL closed down once again? Who understands– however remember, federal judges do seem to be Trump’s primary source of antagonism.A Standing Rock encampment near the pipeline, imagined back in December 2016. Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post/Getty Images< a href =”http://www.iflscience.com/team/robin-andrews/ “> By Robin Andrews