Federal Judge Allows Dakota Access to Threaten Clean Water as Review is Conducted

#NoDAPL demonstrators in Washington, D.C. Native News Online photo by Levi Rickert

Published October 12, 2017

 WASHINGTON – U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled on Wednesday that the Dakota Access pipeline can continue operating while an environmental study is conducted to asssess the impact on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is conducting the environmental study after the federal judge ruled in June that the Corps had done it due diligence before granting an easement permit under Lake Oahe, where the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe gets its drinking water. The Corps issued the permit as result of pressure from the Trump administration to grant the permit so the pipeline could be completed and operational.

In December 2016, the Obama administration denied an easement permit under Lake Oahe.

“This pipeline represents a threat to the livelihoods and health of our Nation every day it is operational,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Mike Faith. “It only makes sense to shut down the pipeline while the Army Corps addresses the risks that this court found it did not adequately study. From the very beginning of our lawsuit, what we have wanted is for the threat this pipeline poses to the people of Standing Rock Indian reservation to be acknowledged. Today, our concerns have not been heard and the threat persists.”

In June 2017, Judge James Boasburg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the initial approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline—a 1,170 mile oil pipeline owned by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)—did not undergo adequate study of its environmental consequences. The judge found particular parts of an initial study addressing “impacts of a spill on hunting rights, fishing rights and environmental justices” deficient and ordered a new report to address those risks.

“The Corps must simply connect the dots,” Judge Boarberg writes in his Wednesday ruling. “This, then, is not a case in which the agency must redo its analysis from the ground up.”

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier in Washington after White House Tribal Nations Conference in September 2016. Native News Online photo by Levi Rickert

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Fraizer, whose tribe is part of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit,  issued the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:

“Earlier today Federal Courts determined that oil can continue to endanger Tribal waters and infringe on treaty agreements. In allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue operations it shows a complete disregard of the Federal government’s responsibility to safeguard its treaty responsibilities, our life-giving resources and the American people.

This decision now renders the previous judgements by the Federal court to a mere government formality. According to the United States Constitution, Article 6, Paragraph 2 “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

Chairman Frazier stated, “I am deeply saddened by the yet another example of the United States disregarding the rule of law after inflicting violence on my people to violate treaty responsibilities. This decision is an example that the United States only applies their own laws when it is convenient to wealthy people operating under the guise of a business. If we cannot stop the United States from breaking their own laws, how can we expect the justice from their laws?”

The environmental impact study is expected to be completed in Spring of 2018.

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