DAPL Court Ruling a Mixed Bag: Reveals Deeply Flawed Environmental Justice Review, but Weak on Treaty Rights

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

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“Environmental Justice” Analysis of Proposed Crude Oil Pipeline is Flawed, Lacks Native Voices

The Minnesota Department of Commerce just released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a proposed crude oil pipeline through northern Minnesota. The project, Enbridge Line 3, would run 337 miles from the North Dakota border to Duluth/Superior, including stretches through the Mississippi headwaters region and prime wild rice waters.

The 1894-page document includes a short section on Environmental Justice. To its credit, it acknowledges the pipeline would infringe on Anishiaabe (Ojibwe) treaty rights and exacerbate historical trauma. But it lacks Native voices and is silent on some important questions.

The Environmental Justice section concludes:

Disproportionate and adverse impacts would occur to American Indian populations in the vicinity of the proposed [Line 3] Project.
Then a few lines later:
A finding of “disproportionate and adverse impacts” does not preclude selection of any given alternative. This finding does, however, require detailed efforts to avoid, mitigate, minimize, rectify, reduce, or eliminate the impact associated with the construction of the Project or any alternatives.

That’s an indirect way of saying Anishinaabe voices and treaty right don’t really matter — the project can proceed based on what non-Native people consider to be fair mitigation.

Let’s take a hard look at the Environmental Justice chapter in the EIS. Continue reading

Movement of Movements: Indigenous Rights, Immigration Reform, Environmental Justice Come Together

Indigenous peoples are standing with Muslims in opposing President Trump’s immigration restrictions.

Environmentalists are standing with indigenous peoples, supporting their efforts to recognize and remember missing and murdered indigenous women.

What might seem like unlikely allies on different issues actually is a sign of a greater understanding of how different issues are connected. The term coming into common usage is Movement of Movements. The article Awakening the Movement of Movements in Truthout gives the following description:

The “Movement of Movements” is a phrase used to describe the current profusion of social justice movements sweeping the national and global social-political landscape. Neither an umbrella nor a grand unification organization, it is rather a way of perceiving the threads of connection that link these social justice movements together.

Here are two quick examples of how the work of different movements intersect and support each other.

Continue reading

New Map Shows DAPL Missouri River Crossing Puts Disproportionate Risk on Native American Communities; Check Out the Trahant Reports

New maps show how the Missouri River crossing for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) puts the greatest risks on those communities where Native Americans live. Jennifer Veilleux and fellow geographer Candice Landry developed maps looking at issues of environmental justice around DAPL.

Their research found that out of 485 counties in the Missouri River Basin, 48 host population that identify as Native American — “and just more than 50% of these counties are either in the path of, or downstream of, the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

The article is titled: Income Maps of the Native Americans Living in the Missouri River Basin, and here is one of the maps. Notice that once the pipeline crosses the Missouri just above the northern tip of the Standing Rock Reservation, the river flows through a series of counties which have a disproportionate number of Native American residents.

Click here for the full article. Continue reading