DAPL Pipeline loses to Standing Rock Sioux in court
Federal judge James Boasberg has twice ruled against petitions brought by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe that sought to block the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). On June 14, Judge Boasberg ruled in favor of the tribe on a third petition.
By Steve Hanley
In a 91-page decision, the judge ruled the Army Corps of Engineers failed to carry out an adequate review of the environmental consequences the pipeline could have when it first approved its construction. This despite the fact that, since Donald Trump took over the White House, the pipeline has been completed and begun transporting oil from the Alberta tar sands.
Original study flawed
In particular, Boasberg found the original study by the Corps failed to adequately assess “the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice.” He ordered the Corps to create a new study that addresses those concerns.
“The court slices things pretty thin, but there were three major areas that he found deficient, and they’re not insignificant. They’re central to the problems that we’ve been highlighting the whole time,” Hasselman told The Atlantic.
The judge left open the question of whether DAPL would be ordered to cease operations in light of his decision. Instead, he scheduled a subsequent court appearance to address that issue.
Judge has three main concerns
Judge Boasberg had three main concerns about the existing Corps of Engineers study. First, he felt it did not assess the results an oil spill might have on the tribe’s hunting and fishing rights as guaranteed to them by various treaties.
Second, the report assess what effect chemicals used to clean up a potential spill might have on the local animals the tribe depends on for food. “Even though a spill is not certain to occur at Lake Oahe, the Corps still had to consider the impacts of such an event on the environment,” the judge said.
Third, court was concerned the Corps had relied too heavily on technicalities. Federal regulations, the kind that Trump so regularly rails against, require that every major project constructed near a poor community, community of color, or Native American reservation must be studied on environmental justice grounds. The Corps simply ignored those requirements because the DAPL pipeline runs 0.55 miles north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.
UPDATE: Earth Justice, which has been backing the Standing Rock Sioux, issued the following statement:
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a major victory today in their ongoing battle to protect their drinking water and ancestral lands from the Dakota Access Pipeline. This victory is the result of the Tribe’s inspiring and courageous fight, supported by hundreds of thousands of people like you who spoke up and made your voices heard.
Just days after President Trump’s inauguration, his administration hastily issued federal permits authorizing construction of the pipeline across the Missouri River, just upstream of the Standing Rock Reservation. Today a federal judge ruled that those permits violated the law.
The court ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers 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. In short, the Trump administration broke one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws.
Today the federal courts stepped in where our political systems have failed, but the fight is far from over. The oil continues to flow, and we will continue to fight back in court. Thank you for standing with us.
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(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Cleantechnica.)