In the waning days of the Obama administration, the top lawyer for the U.S. Department of Interior wrote about significant flaws in the permitting process for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) easement under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. The government had not honored federal trust responsibilities to consult with Native nations. Worse, the government had kept key environmental analysis secret, unavailable for review by Native nations and the general public. Worse yet, some of the analysis was simply inaccurate — and since it was secret it couldn’t be challenged.
The 38-page memo is from Hilary Tompkins, the Department of Interior’s solicitor, to the Secretary. The conclusion is this:
[T]here is ample legal justification for the Corps to exercise its discretion to suspend or revoke the existing Section 408 permit and/or postpone a decision on the proposed easement conditional on additional analysis
and government-to-government consultation concerning the tribal-specific issues discussed in this Memorandum … If the Corps ultimately does decide to authorize the easement, additional tribal consultation is necessary to develop conditions for the authorization that will protect the Tribes’ rights and interests in and around Lake Oahe. (page 35)
Disturbingly, the Dec. 4 memo details problems with the government’s process that until recently have been hidden.