The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) has to shut down by Aug. 5 and the pipeline emptied of oil until the project’s environmental impact statement is finished and treaty rights and other environmental challenges are resolved, according to a court ruling today. According to the ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:
Fearing severe environmental consequences, American Indian Tribes on nearby reservations have sought for several years to invalidate federal permits allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to carry oil under the lake [Lake Oahe]. Today they finally achieve that goal — at least for the time being.
Depending on the results of a pending environmental impact statement, DAPL could be forced to shut down permanently.
Energy Transfer, a leading partner in DAPL, criticized the ruling and vowed to challenge it. The company faces problems on second front, as oil firms are trying to back out of commitments they made to ship oil on a proposed DAPL expansion.
Attorneys for water protectors at the Standing Rock say they had a significant victory in court Wednesday, including the right to key information that the state so far has withheld. They also won the right to depose members of the private security firm Tiger Swan as well as other law enforcement officials.
The legal team also learned that key evidence most likely was destroyed.
Quick check in: Standing Rock hasn’t been in the news recently, as attention has shifted to efforts to stop the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands crude oil pipeline through Minnesota. But water protector cases are still being prosecuted in North Dakota, long after the Dakota Access Pipeline forced its way under the Missouri River near Standing Rock.
The Lakota Peoples Law Project sends out periodic updates on the cases against Chase Iron Eyes and HolyElk Rafferty. Here is the most recent update:
For months, the State of North Dakota has failed to pursue or provide required evidence to the defense team representing Lakota People’s Law Project Lead Counsel Chase Iron Eyes. At a crucial hearing on Tuesday, Apr. 4, Judge Lee Christofferson made several rulings in favor of the defense.
Christofferson ruled that Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier and the State of North Dakota must hand over all missing evidence by May 1, and he scolded the deputy state’s attorney for his lack of action. Christofferson also granted defense lawyer Alex Reichert and Lakota People’s Law Project attorneys Daniel Sheehan and Lanny Sinkin the authority to subpoena employees of TigerSwan, the mercenary security firm hired by Dakota Access pipeline parent company Energy Transfer Partners. Our defense team alleges that TigerSwan ran a targeted, racist, no-holds-barred surveillance and smear campaign against Chase and other water protectors.
The defense team wants to show what it says was illegal collusion between industry, law enforcement, and TigerSwan. Click on the link above and you can watch a 36-minute video of defense attorneys talking about recent developments. The highlights follow.
It’s been a while since we have written on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL); here are a few updates.
First, Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind DAPL, is donating $140,000 to North Dakota first responders. I am not quite sure what to call this. At a minimum, it’s influence money. It almost feels like legal bribery for future aid. Whatever you call it, it stinks. If first responders are supposed to treat everyone impartially, these kinds of donations mess up the equation and create favorites.
KFRY TV in Bismarck, ND, reported that Energy Transfer Partners representatives hand delivered $20,000 each to the seven counties DAPL crosses, money meant for their first responders.
“And now we want to go into each county and let them know how grateful we are. We know everyone has worked hard and has been patient through this whole process and we are so grateful,” said Dakota Access Pipeline spokesperson Lisa Dillinger.
KSFY, an ABC affiliate in Sioux Falls, SD, reports that Energy Transfer Partners donated $65,000 for agricultural education, spread among the 13 South Dakota counties crossed by DAPL.
To make matters worse, on top of the influence it buys, Energy Transfer Partners probably also gets a charitable donation tax write-off.
An Open Letter to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken, and Rep. Keith Ellison:
Regardless of your view on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), I hope we all can agree that the standoff and violence that occurred near Standing Rock should never have happened. We must learn from this tragic event.
In that regard, I ask you to investigate the actions of the National Sheriffs’ Association and its role in doing opposition research against water protectors and its ties and coordination with TigerSwan, the private security firm hired by Energy Transfer Partners to protect DAPL. This should include a review of the rationale and appropriateness of the law enforcement tactics used.
This is a national issue. Law enforcement from several states — including Minnesota — were deployed to Morton County, North Dakota through mutual assistance agreements. What are the lessons these law enforcement agents will take back to their home communities?
This should be of particular to concern to those of us in Minnesota. Canadian company Enbridge Line 3 has proposed expanding a tar sands crude pipeline through the state, called Line 3. It would run from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin, and includes 337 miles of pipeline through Minnesota. It would cross the Mississippi River, twice, and cross many wild rice lakes. This project most likely will provoke a similar resistance movement as happened in North Dakota. (See MPR story: Minn. oil pipeline fight stokes threats, fears of Standing Rock.)
How will we respond if and when that happens?
We need a thorough review of law enforcement’s response at Standing Rock so that we don’t repeat the mistakes that were made.
A recent court ruling on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is stunning for what is reveals about how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted its so called “environmental analysis” of the project.
The June 14 decision by U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg will require the Corps to go back and do the analysis correctly. He left open the possibility that the court could shut down the pipeline until these issues are resolved. That decision will come at a later hearing.
The court ruling says the Corps analysis “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice.” Read more deeply into the decision, and it raises questions about whether the Corps is simply oblivious to the concept of environment justice or whether its staff willfully slanted the review to get the outcome it wanted.
(In a related matter, the Trump administration has proposed eliminating the Environmental Justice Program altogether and making deep cuts to other civil rights services. See this CNN story.)
According to the court decision on DAPL: “The purpose of an environmental justice analysis is to determine whether a project will have a disproportionately adverse effect on minority and low income populations.”
The problem with the Corps’ environmental justice analysis boils down to this: It drew such a tiny circle defining the project’s impact area that it excluded the Standing Rock Nation from consideration.
That’s right. The Corps’ environmental justice analysis only looked at the impact on a predominantly white community mostly upstream from where DAPL crossed under Lake Oahe. It did not consider the impact on the Lakota people of the Standing Rock Nation just downstream from the crossing — the community that would be impacted by any spill. Continue reading →
To the water protectors who tried to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), the fact that law enforcement and security firms coordinated efforts to undermine the camps is old news. For those less familiar, the news site The Intercept is providing new details on the behind-the-scenes surveillance and public relations operations by the government and private security.
The Intercept received leaked documents from a contractor who worked with TigerSwan, a private security firm hired by Energy Transfer Partners to coordinate DAPL security. The Intercept just published its second story in a three-part series.
TigerSwan is largely made up of special operations military veterans, (which tells you a lot about the approach Energy Transfer Partners wanted to take in the conflict). TigerSwan “was formed during the war in Iraq and incorporated its counterinsurgency tactics into its effort to suppress an indigenous-led movement centered around protection of water,” The Interept story said.
The story raises serious questions about law enforcement’s impartiality and the “Surveillance-Industrial Complex.” Continue reading →
Leaked documents paint a disturbing picture about how a private security firm used anti-terrorism tactics against the water protectors who opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), according to a story in the news site “The Intercept.”
The private firm coordinated with local, state, and federal law enforcement to undermine the protest, the story said. “The documents also provide extensive evidence of aerial surveillance and radio eavesdropping, as well as infiltration of camps and activist circles.”
This news comes as DAPL is now fully operational, Standing Rock Chairman David Archambeau is found not guilty of protest-related crimes, and complaints are being investigated against Energy Transfer Partners for failing to follow the rules during DAPL’s construction.
A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor helping to execute the global war on terror, worked at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project.
Internal TigerSwan communications describe the [water protectors’] movement as “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component” and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters.
The article is based on more than 100 internal documents leaked by a TigerSwan contractor, as well as more than 1,000 documents obtained through public records requests, the story said. Documents obtained “also suggest that TigerSwan attempted a counterinformation campaign by creating and distributing content critical of the protests on social media.”
Well, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) isn’t fully operational yet, but it had its first spill, 84 gallons of crude oil near one of its pump stations, according a story in The Guardian. It might not seem like a lot, but think what it would look like to take the hose off a gas station pump and hold the handle down so that it spilled enough gas to fill about eight sedans. (But in this case we’re talking crude oil.)
And this is when the line is brand new!
Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the Texas-based company building DAPL, has other troubles out east. In a rush to finish its Rover natural gas pipeline in Ohio, Indian Country Today reports that ETP “spilled about two million of gallons of drilling materials in two separate accidents into two of Ohio’s few remaining wetlands.”
“Energy Transfer Partners has dumped millions of gallons of a milkshake-like substance into pristine wetlands,” said Jenn Miller, director of the Sierra Club of Ohio. “This will have massive impacts on the plant, fish and amphibian species there.”
One-third of Ohio’s endangered species rely on wetlands for habitat and survival, Miller said.
Click on the story link to see a photo of how bad the spill is.
Meanwhile, resistance to such projects continues. Indian Country Today reports on a unique alliance of Nebraska tribes, ranchers, and landowners that are resisting Keystone XL and other fossil fuel developments. Keystone XL will pass through traditional Ponca lands, lands that were taken from them. They still consider these ancestral lands as part of their culture and traditions.
On April 29, members of the Ponca Tribe began a remembrance walk to commemorate their forced removal from their traditional lands in the 1870s, the story said. The planned 12-day walk covered the 273 miles from Niobrara, Nebraska, to Barneston.
“Knowing how painful it was to have that land taken away from us, we can empathize with those farmers that own that land today. We know what it’s like to be told somebody’s going to take your property away,” said Larry Wright, Ponca Tribal Chairman of Nebraska. …
For the past three years, members of … various groups have been gathering in Neligh, Nebraska, to plant Ponca sacred corn where the pipeline’s route crosses the trail the tribe was forced to take away from their homeland. They sow the corn by hand, following principles of prayer rooted in a deep respect for the land.
Minnesota, you are next up in the efforts to stop pipelines from threatening our signature lakes and rivers. Enbridge, a energy transportation company, is proposing to abandon an old and failing tar sands pipeline through northern Minnesota and wants to install a new and larger pipeline, including a significant route change. The 337-mile pipeline, called Enbridge Line 3, would pass through the Mississippi headwaters region and through traditional Anishinaabe wild rice areas.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce is expected to release a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Tuesday, May 16. The EIS should draw media attention and elevate the public debate over this project. There is expected to be a 60-day public comment period. More information coming soon on how to get involved. For more background, see the Enbridge Line 3 Page of our blog.
“Energy Transfer Partners has finished drilling under Lake Oahe and will soon be laying pipe under the Missouri River reservoir,” according to a story by Minnesota Public Radio. As legal challenges to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) linger in court, the oil could start flowing in two weeks.
Meanwhile, Native peoples in West Texas are trying to stop an Energy Transfer Partners natural gas pipeline project that crosses under the Rio Grande. Minnesotans are gearing up to stop a proposed pipeline expansion that would increase the flow of high-polluting tar sands through the state.
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.