A federal judge has just dealt what may be the final blow to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their fight to protect sacred lands and water quality from the threat of the North Dakota Access pipeline.
The tribe filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, alleging that their fast-track permitting of the pipeline – which skirts the normal environmental and cultural review process – was in violation of several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act.
“U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington denied the tribe’s request for a temporary injunction in a one-page ruling that included no explanation. It ordered the parties to appear for a status conference on Sept. 16.
The ruling said that “this Court does not lightly countenance any depredation of lands that hold significance to the Standing Rock Sioux” and that, given the federal government’s history with the tribe, “the Court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care. Having done so, the Court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.”
The denial of the tribe’s request means that Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) will continue constructing their 30-inch pipeline projected to carry a half million barrels of crude oil per day from the Bakken oil fracking fields in North Dakota to a transfer point in Illinois.
The tribe has every reason in the world to not want the pipeline as they are notorious for leaking. Just look at the horrid damage caused by Enbridge’s pipeline in the Kalamazoo River.
The people of the Great Sioux Nation were also betrayed by the United States government, who violated the nation-to-nation treaty by allowing permission of this pipeline before obtaining the tribe’s free, prior, and informed consent for its construction.
The court decision is a sobering reminder that government readily comes to defense of billion-dollar corporate interests, even when land rights, environmental concerns, and sacred Native American burial grounds are at stake.
State and local governments, salivating over the millions in expected tax revenue, had no hesitation in granting eminent domain to the oil company when landowners refused to sell their land for the pipeline right of way. They had no hesitation in putting the quality of drinking water for millions of people in jeopardy.
When Native Americans rose up to defend their water and their sacred burial grounds, local authorities stood by and watched as private mercenary firms unleashed dogs and pepper spray on protesters. Water trucks were removed from protest camps and the North Dakota governor called out the National Guard to protect the interests of Big Oil.
Now, federal government has put the nail in the coffin.
Attorney Jim Hasselman of Earthjustice said they will challenge the ruling, but things are looking grim.
“We will have to pursue our options with an appeal and hope that construction isn’t completed while that (appeal) process is going forward,” said Hasselman. “We will continue to pursue vindication of the tribe’s lawful rights even if the pipeline is complete.”
The only hope that remains is that according to the Justice Department, the pipeline will not proceed on schedule through the sacred land until federal authorities undertake additional reviews.
Federal authorities, on Friday afternoon, said they would not authorize construction of the pipeline to proceed near or under Lake Oahe until they undertake additional reviews.
“Construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time,” said a statement from the Corps of Engineers, the Justice Department and the Department of the Interior. “The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. “
Thousands are gathering today to protest as pipeline construction nears the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in southern North Dakota. Perhaps the most symbolically tragic moment will be when the pipeline is installed across the Missouri River near tribal lands, making the threat to their water supplies reality.
The largest gathering of Native Americans in a century has yet to be silenced.