In April of 2016, hundreds of people gathered near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to protest the development of the four-state Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe proclaimed that the pipeline’s development crossed through land promised to the Native American tribe centuries before, and that it could potentially contaminate the Missouri river. Until December 4, 2017, when the U.S. Army Corps denied an easement to the parent company of the project, Dakota Energy Transfers, did thousands of activists gather on the plains in solidarity.
Unfortunately, shortly after President Trump took office, the DAPL was given the green light and construction resumed. Even before it was fully online, a leak occurred, solidifying activists’ concern about its development. Nonetheless, there was little anyone could do. The heavy feelings of failure recently lifted, however, due to a small victory, as a federal judge recently ruled that the federal permits authorizing the pipeline to cross the Missouri river near the Standing Rock reservation violated the law in certain respects.
Stand With Standing Rock reports that in a 91-page decision, Judge James boasberg wrote that “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.” It was not determined by the Court whether or not the pipeline operations should be shut off. Judge Boasberg did request additional briefing on the subject and a status conference for the following week, however.
Following the development, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II said, “This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing. 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, represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, has filed a lawsuit which challenges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision for issuing a permit for the pipeline. The opposition argues that its construction violates 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.”
Though the Court did rule that the federal permits authorizing the DAPL to cross the Missouri river did violate the law, it ruled against the Tribe on several other issues, such as the reversal allowing the pipeline complied with the law in certain respects.
Image Credit: Joe Brusky