Native Nations Sue the Federal Government to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) and the Fort Belknap Indian Community (Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) Tribes) are suing the Trump Administration in the District Court for violating key federal regulations in approving the Keystone XL tar sands crude oil pipeline, according to an email from the Native American Rights Fund, which also has joined the suit.

The 77-page lawsuit asks the court to find the federal permits violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the National Historic Preservation Act( NHPA). The lawsuit asks the Court to rescind the permits and prohibit “any activity in furtherance of the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of the Pipeline and related facilities.”

Some of the arguments this lawsuit makes are similar to the ones that Native nations in northern Minnesota could make against Enbridge Line 3.

According to the lawsuit against Keystone XL pipeline:

Intended for the international market, the highly toxic “tar sands” crude oil sludge would pass more than 1,000 miles through the United States, connecting the tar sands mining fields of Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of the United States. In its proposed path are the home lands of the Great Sioux Nation and the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes, to which Plaintiffs Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Fort Belknap Indian Community, respectively, maintain physical, cultural, and religious ties.
Map of Keystone XL Pipeline, showing the threat to aquifers. (Wikimedia Commons)

TransCanada’s permits were denied — twice — by the previous administration, the lawsuit said. Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump invited the company to “promptly resubmit” its application. On this third try, the permits were approved without any public process.

Specifically, there was no analysis of the trust obligation the federal government owes to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Fort Belknap Indian Community, nor any analysis of “the potential impact of the Pipeline on treaty rights.”

Keystone XL would be TransCanada’s second such pipeline, the first being the Keystone Pipeline, which spilled “407,000 gallons of tar sands near Amherst, South Dakota” in November, 2017, and had other spills of 16,800 gallons in South Dakota (2016) and 16,800 gallons in North Dakota in 2011.

Impacts on Native Rights

According to the lawsuit:

The Defendants failed to analyze the impacts of Pipeline construction and operation, including the inevitable ruptures and spills after the Pipeline is operational, on Rosebud’s hunting and fishing rights. This includes, but is not limited to, the impacts on tribal members who practice subsistence hunting and fishing, and the impacts on the tribal economy if the availability of game and fish is (or is perceived to be) affected by the Pipeline. …
The pipeline threatens the drinking water of the Native nations as well as their sacred sites. The suit says the federal government failed “to adequately consult with the Tribes and to make a reasonable and good faith effort to identify historic properties violates Section 106 of the NHPA and its implementing regulations.”

For more, see the Native American Rights Fund page. Also here.

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