The US District Court for the District of Columbia is one of the most powerful courts in the country, precisely because it covers the nation’s capitol, where litigation involving the federal government often takes place. Attorneys for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are opposing the Dakota Access pipeline that will be constructed over land belonging to the tribe pursuant to the term of an 1851 treaty, claiming that it represents a significant environmental hazard to the members of the tribe who are dependent on local lakes and rivers for their drinking water.
This week, Judge James E. Boasberg issued several orders designed to help guard against a spill similar to the one that dumped more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil on land surrounding the nearby Keystone XL pipeline. “The spill occurred near the boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation, home of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, thus highlighting the potential impact of pipeline incidents on tribal lands. Although the court is not suggesting that a similar leak is imminent at Lake Oahe, the fact remains that there is an inherent risk with any pipeline,” the judge wrote in his decision.
A report by ShadowProof notes that the same judge refused to completely shut down the pipeline in October, but did acknowledge that “allowing oil to flow through the pipeline” would create “potentially disruptive” effects and could lead to incidents that may potentially “wreak havoc on nearby communities and ecosystems.” The judge ordered the Army Corps of Engineers and Dakota Access to increase their monitoring of the pipeline going forward.
He instructed the Army Corps, Dakota Access, and the Sioux and Cheyenne Tribes to finalize “spill response plans” for Lake Oahe and submit them to the court by April 1, 2018. Dakota Access was also ordered to complete a third-party audit of its compliance with permits and regulations to be submitted by the same date.
Additionally, the court requested Dakota Access “file bi-monthly reports regarding the status of the pipeline during remand, beginning at the end of this month.” The court remanded the case to the Corps of Engineers last summer when it found it did “not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.”
“With respect to this condition, the Corps [of Engineers] contends that such reporting is ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unlikely to lead to any meaningful differences in the safety of the pipeline.’ Yet it never explains how additional information and transparency during the remand process would not enhance public safety and the court’s understanding of the facts on the ground,” Judge Boasberg wrote in his opinion. “In light of Dakota Access’s agreement to ‘voluntarily’ report on many of the issues raised by the Tribes, there is similarly no concern that this condition will be unduly burdensome for the company.”
“The court clearly understands that oil spills present a grave risk to the people of Standing Rock and that additional measures are needed,” declared Jan Hasselman, attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “We look forward to participating in spill response planning and the independent audit, and will be watching closely to ensure that the new environmental review is not just another Trump administration rubber stamp.”
All of this talk of cooperation is laughable. Energy Transfer Partners, the corporate parent of the Dakota Access pipeline, has filed a billion dollar lawsuit against Greenpeace and BankTrack, claiming both are criminal enterprises akin to terrorist organizations because of their advocacy on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux. It is another example of Trumpies seeking to criminalize dissent, much as they are doing by prosecuting several hundred people who had the effrontery to protest in Washington, DC on election day. How dare they disrespect our Dear Leader? If convicted, each defendant faces a decade or more in prison for his or her defiance. Welcome to Amerika in the 21st century.
Judge Boasberg requested Dakota Access to consult with the Indigenous People opposing the pipeline when selecting the auditor so both sides could share data with the auditor during the process. Keep in mind that Dakota Access and Energy Transfer Partners are the same organizations that hired weaponized private security guards with attack dogs, and used tear gas, tanks, fire hoses, helicopters, and rubber bullets against people who dared to pray together. Given those circumstances, cooperation is likely to be grudging at best.
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.