Dakota Access: Cantwell, Tester, Udall Call on Feds to Consult with Tribes, Follow the Rule of Law before Moving Forward on Oil Pipeline

Trump memorandum seeks to expedite permitting of oil pipeline opposed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, breaks the government’s legal obligations to tribal nations

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Jon Tester (D-MT), former Chairs of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and current Vice Chairman Tom Udall (D-NM) sent a letter to the Trump Administration objecting to its memorandum seeking to expedite the permitting and construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The memorandum, which was crafted without tribal consultation, undermines federal law and the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities to tribes.

In the letter, the senators call for the completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process already underway, including notice and comment, and appropriate consultation with the impacted parties. The senators also urged “meaningful consultation” with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe before any further action on the Dakota Access Pipeline is taken.

“By ‘expediting’ this process and proceeding without appropriate consultation, the United States would be turning its back on its most solemn trust responsibility to the Tribe,” the senators wrote.  “We are deeply concerned and believe the United States must uphold its trust and treaty obligations to the Tribe and respect the self-determination and wishes of all tribal nations.”

The Army Corps of Engineers had begun to conduct the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine the pipeline’s effect on the Standing Rock Sioux and the surrounding environment.  President Trump’s memorandum would manipulate and circumvent established EIS procedure by shortening the process to achieve a predetermined outcome. 

It has been reported today that the Army Corps of Engineers under the new Administration may greenlight approvals without completing the EIS process. In the letter, the Senators strongly objected to these reports that the Army Corps may be planning to grant approvals to expedite the project without completing the EIS currently underway.

The pipeline is projected to carry 500,000 barrels of oil underneath the Missouri River per day. The oil crosses the river at Lake Oahe, just a half mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Lake Oahe and the Missouri provide drinking water for the tribe and the surrounding regions, as well as providing habitat for fish, wildlife, and plants. Significantly, the lake is also a sacred site for the Standing Rock Sioux, playing an important role in sacred ceremonies.

Full text of the letter can be found here.