Despite Victory in Dakota Access Pipeline Reroute, Energy Transfer Ignores Denial of Easement

Water protectors were granted a partial victory on Dec. 4th when the Army Corps of Engineers announced that no easement will be granted for Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) construction to continue under Lake Oahe, and alternate routes will be examined.

Over the course of the last month, winter has come to Cannonball, ND, and those same protectors have been met with serious confrontations from police and escalating threats from the state of North Dakota. People from all over the country have diverted their attention to Standing Rock, and speak out against DAPL.

Sunday’s announcement is an impressive feat for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, after concerns as to how long the Obama Administration planned to “let it play out” before taking any action.

This decision comes after thousands of veterans arrive at Oceti Sakowin, the main camp for the #NoDAPL occupation, promising to act as “human shields” between the militarized police and the water protectors. Similarly, the denial of the easement validates the claim that Energy Transfer never properly consulted the tribe for construction in the area, despite arguments in the lawsuit they filed on Nov. 16th.

However, the fight is far from over.

The same day as the Corps’s announcement, Energy Transfer issued a statement that they will still complete construction “without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.” With the company admitting that they will disregard federal and tribal law to save themselves millions of dollars, the Corps’s announcement needs immediate enforcement to prevent illegal drilling. Asking to voluntarily stop construction isn’t working, as Energy Transfer has already refused to do so three times.

A concern also exists that the Corps’s decision could be reversed once Donald Trump takes office in January, as he has vocalized support for the pipeline’s completion.

Excessive use of force by law enforcement in months prior has been condemned by United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Maina Kiai. On top of the use of tear gas and rubber bullets, 528 people arrested since August, and detainment has been in overcrowded cages with insufficient medical care.

“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is an individual right, and it cannot be taken away indiscriminately or en masse due to the violent actions of a few,” said Kiai in his report. “The use of violence by some protesters should not be used as a justification to nullify the peaceful assembly rights of everyone else.”

On Nov. 20th, water protectors were met with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets by police after trying to clear two damaged military trucks blocking Highway 1806. More than 300 protesters were injured, facing hypothermia with temperatures as low as 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Dozens were hospitalized, including tribal elders,  and a 13-year-old named Vanessa was shot in the face and has damage to her cornea, and Sophia Wilanksy almost lost her arm after the police threw a grenade and is still undergoing treatment for tissue reconstruction.

The Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC-formerly Red Owl), an initiative of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), filed a lawsuit against Morton County, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirschmeier, and other law enforcement agencies for using excessive force against water protectors on Nov. 20.

Four days after the violence on Backwater Bridge, on Thanksgiving Day, water protectors occupied Turtle Island on Cannonball River in remembrance of Indigenous genocide.

While the U.S Army Corps of Engineers survey the area to determine a different route for the pipeline, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has not rescinded his evacuation notice that identifies any campers remaining after Dec. 5 as trespassers. Despite the easement denial, we must remain vigilant in any action taken to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline in a way that infringes on sovereign Standing Rock Sioux territory.

It is our obligation as stewards of the water to defund DAPL and to continue to urge the Obama administration to stand strong against this pipeline and in solidarity with 18 million people who rely on the Missouri River for clean drinking water. Sign our petition at lakotalaw.org to tell President Obama that he must remain vigilant on this issue and continue to order the Corps to stand down in the face of corporate greed.

Future DAPL Operator’s Pennsylvania Pipeline Leaked

Despite the millions of voices worldwide speaking out against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), parent company Energy Transfer remains unmoved.

CEO Kelcy Warren assured his employees that they thoroughly spoke with the Standing Rock Sioux, and that DAPL wouldn’t threaten the Missouri River. However, a recent pipeline leak in Pennsylvania by Sunoco Logistics, the future operator of the DAPL, coupled with the continuing protests, astonishing arrests and abuses in North Dakota suggest otherwise.

Environmental Danger

On Oct. 20th, heavy rainfall led to the Sunoco pipeline bursting, leaking 55,000 gallons of gasoline into Wallis Run which connects to the Susquehanna River. Although the pipeline was shut down, the continuing rainfall and flash flooding made it hard to immediately assess the damage, with residents being  warned against using water from the river. With the water now receded, no serious problems arose except an odor, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the Susquehanna River safe for drinking again.

Not only does the Susquehanna River provide drinking water to 6 million people along the Chesapeake Bay but it is also listed by American Rivers as the third most endangered river in the US due to fracking from the natural gas industry. This leak brings to question Sunoco’s pipeline management, as their pipelines spill frequently — with more than 200 recorded leaks since 2010.

The same is expected to happen to the Standing Rock Sioux with DAPL, and potentially at a worse scale, since Sunoco Logistics, the future operator, has proven to be severely incompetent.

Human Rights Abuses

After the 127 arrests from Oct. 22nd and 23rd, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was called upon by Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault to investigate the pipeline developments and the excessive force used by law enforcement. Until the DOJ addresses the issues raised by the Standing Rock Sioux, no final permits will be issued to Energy Transfer for construction bordering or under Lake Oahe. Once again, they requested the company to voluntarily halt construction.

Last week another 141 protesters were arrested —  making the arrest count more than 400 since the protests began. The arrestees were placed in temporary holding cells, which many are calling dog kennels, and had numbers written on their skin in black marker.

The use of these cages was upheld by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department for the mass arrests, seeing as Morton County Correctional Center only has room for 42 inmates at a time.

Morton officials also assured that the protesters had access to the bathroom, food and water, but firsthand accounts say that they had to wait for basic necessities and medical attention. One example is Johanna Holy Elk Face, a 63 year old diabetic woman who had high blood sugar at the time, which would have potentially led to a seizure had her treatment been delayed any longer while she was in custody.

Because of these mass arrests, a UN permanent forum on indigenous rights is investigating these human rights abuses.

Federal Inaction

This past Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would look into rerouting DAPL around sacred native land. In an interview with NowThis, he said the government will “let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”

It’s finally a step in the right direction after months worth of pleas from protesters to halt construction, however, they can’t afford to be left waiting for federal action when the human rights and federal law violations are far too obvious and constant to ignore or wait to see what the other side has to say. There is no doubt that the police are overstepping their power, and Energy Transfer is guilty of neglecting environmental protection, tribal sovereignty and historical preservation.

The day after Obama’s interview, law enforcement clashed with protesters as they tried crossing Cantapeta Creek to Cannonball Ranch and faced pepper spray while wading through the water. This came after Energy Transfer found Native American artifacts along the route of DAPL last month and failed to report it to state regulators within 10 days.

While the company moved the route away from the artifacts, the lack of a report will likely get them fined up to $200,000. This also violates Executive Order 13007 on Protection of Sacred Sites where “each executive branch agency shall avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sites.”

Between the federal law violations and human rights abuses which appear to be increasing every day, federal action cannot be delayed any further, especially with Obama’s presidency coming so close to an end. He has good intentions to hope for a peaceful solution, but it won’t come any sooner if action is postponed, especially given how excessively violent North Dakota law enforcement has become within the past few weeks.

There is no good to come from DAPL, and Energy Transfer and North Dakota law enforcement have broken far too many laws to just let it slide under the rug anymore. The protesters need immediate backing from federal action if their water and livelihood has any chance to live in peace.

Aggressive Action Against DAPL Protesters

The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline carries on as construction continues amid requests from the Obama Administration to halt the project. As hostilities grow between campers and police, the arrest count is rising to an alarming rate with more than 260 arrests in the past two months.

On Indigenous People’s Day, Oct. 8th, 27 protesters were arrested for trespassing, reckless endangerment and engaging in a riot, despite that they were actually partaking in peaceful prayer. Among those arrested included actress and environmental activist, Shailene Woodley, who recorded the events in a live stream via Facebook and showed police fully-equipped with riot gear and military vehicles.

Just this past weekend, another 127 protesters were arrested in a demonstration with 300 people at the construction site.

The militarization of North Dakota police has built up to a massive display of force since Governor Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency in mid-August. Surveillance flights follow protesters, and police set up multiple roadblocks and checkpoints to prevent more from joining the Oceti Sakowin camp, by checking IDs and questioning drivers.

Some protesters were attacked with police dogs and pepper spray last month. Energy Transfer hired G4S, a controversial private security organization known for servicing prisons. They have assisted officials in blocking roads and surveilling protesters.

Police support in Morton County is expected to grow as stated in a press conference by Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier earlier this month. Ironically, Kirchmeier is worried about “outside agitators” when an unnecessary amount of force is being brought in from out-of-state in opposition of a peaceful protest.

Along with the militarization, the charges against the water protectors have risen to an extreme, with many individuals arrested for trespassing and inciting riots despite Energy Transfer having no right to construct along Lake Oahe in the first place, as it violates federal and tribal laws meant to protect the land from being taken from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

In a recent report by the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC), a group of attorneys providing legal consultation for the water protectors stated that the police’s tactics have been found abusive and in violation of First and Fourth Amendment rights. The police have also alerted local farmers to “arm themselves” should anyone trespass their land, and officers have stopped wearing their name-plates and badge numbers which is illegal for a North Dakota State Trooper to do. This is supposedly to prevent threats against their homes and families, but given the brutality that has occurred within the past few months and that an officer’s personal information can be difficult to obtain it’s really just an excuse to avoid the consequences to their actions.

Among those arrested include tribal leaders like Standing Rock Sioux Chairman, Dave Archambault, who revealed in an interview with “Democracy Now!” that he was strip searched after he was charged on Aug. 15th for disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor offense. Charges were dropped against him Sept. 16 by a federal judge in Bismarck.

“I thought it was humorous, because I had to take all my clothes off, and then they wanted to check my braid for—and I don’t have a very thick braid for any weapons to hide, but so I thought it was pretty crazy and unnecessary to do a strip search and to check my hair,” Archambault recounted in the interview.

He also noted that of the five states the pipeline is set to run through, it is only North Dakota that is receiving extra police force from out of state. With the massive amount of arrests from this past weekend, Archambault is disappointed at the disregard of First Amendment rights from state and congressional politicians as well as Governor Dalrymple.

Their lack of leadership and commitment to creating a dialogue towards a peaceful solution reflects not only the unjust historical narrative against Native Americans, but a dangerous trend in law enforcement tactics across America,” said Archambault in a statement to North Dakota’s local NBC news.

Freedom of press was recently put in jeopardy when “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman who reported protesters being pepper sprayed and having dogs sicced on them on September 3rd  faced trespassing and riot charges five days afterwards. They were dropped this past week due to lacking evidence or motivation. Meanwhile journalists from Unicorn Riot continue to be arrested for their coverage of the movement.

North Dakota State Attorney Ladd Erickson argued in favor of the charges by indicating to newspapers like Grand Forks Herald and The Bismarck Tribune that Goodman wasn’t a journalist because her report was biased in “justifying the protest actions.”

But a journalist’s job is to report on current events, especially when human rights abuses are involved, and there is absolutely no justification to use attack dogs on peaceful protesters.

The protest against DAPL needs to be documented as it is still going strong, and there are still ongoing violations of federal law and First Amendment rights. The claims of riots and violence only try to discredit why the water protectors are there to begin with, and it disregards any wrongdoings done by Energy Transfer and police force within the past year. As indicated by Archambault, without any open dialogue toward compromise these problems will only get worse in a never-ending cycle of injustice.

The land rightfully belongs to the Standing Rock Sioux, and Energy Transfer violated historical preservation, environmental protection, and tribal sovereignty in order to build a pipeline. Energy Transfer needs to stop grasping at straws to justify construction when they are the only ones breaking any laws.

Donate to Legal Support for the Water Protectors: https://cldc.org/2016/10/20/in-standing-rock-the-cops-are-out-of-control/

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Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/40969298@N05/29485116115/in/photostream/

EPA Plans For Better Cleanup After Gold King Mine Spill

A year after the Gold King Mine spilled three million gallons of toxic chemicals into the Animas River, the EPA last week announced the site as a Superfund site, where a polluted area is required for a long-term cleanup and becomes eligible for federal funding to do so. With the Bonita Peak Mining District now on the National Priorities List, the agency will devote $1 billion for better investigating and addressing contamination concerns for those along the San Juan River, including the Navajo Nation who are still waiting for compensation for lost crops and reassurance of the water’s quality. The Navajo Nation is hesitant  to use any water for farming and livestock, as they are skeptical of the water’s safety and concerned with long-term health effects from the spill.

The EPA’s announcement comes a few weeks after the Navajo Nation sued them for an insufficient cleanup after the Gold King Mine Spill and the lack of compensation for lost crops for a year. Almost 3,000 farms and ranches were affected as they stopped irrigating from the river and crops dried up and livestock were sold due to lacking resources to maintain them. Some remain doubtful that the river will ever be restored with lacking reassurances of safety and over a century’s worth of mining affecting the area with hundreds of abandoned mines near the Animas River which were poorly constructed and managed.

Even a bipartisan group of senators want to expedite the reimbursement to those affected by the Gold King Mine Spill. They introduced an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act which would force the EPA to pay eligible claims made after October 2015 within 90 days. County officials, local companies and individuals through the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah are still waiting for thousands of dollars worth of reimbursement with some only being paid in part and others receiving nothing so far.

While these issues should have been addressed long ago with the EPA taking responsibility for the Gold King Mine Spill, it is a relief to environmental and tribal activists that the agency will better assess the damage and devote what will likely be 10 years into cleanup of the Animas and San Juan Rivers. The Navajo Nation had to wait for far too long for their concerns to be properly addressed with their livelihoods at stake. It seems that the EPA is finally taking full, genuine accountability for the Gold King Mine Spill and will address the increasing complaints.

With a newfound hope for the Navajo and their livelihood to be fully restored, these developments from the EPA are the course of action we need to see in light of the Dakota Access Pipeline which will threaten the water supply of the Standing Rock Tribe and the 18 million people living downstream. While the Obama Administration temporarily halted construction near the reservation, Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren announced that 60 percent of the pipeline is finished and vows to complete construction, saying that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded.” The violation of basic human rights will not be ignored and the voices against the pipeline will only become louder until construction halts indefinitely and Energy Transfer accepts accountability.

 

Voice your opposition to the DAPL by signing onto these petitions:

Earth Justice: https://secure.earthjustice.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1861&_ga=1.188139371.296617086.1429319754

Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline

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Image Source: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/navajo-nation-sues-federal-government-for-gold-king-mine-spill-8556166 [Photographer: Jerry McBride]

 

Disregarding Native Rights and Health, from PetroPeru to Dakota Access

Not too long after federal Judge James Boasberg denied the Standing Rock Sioux’s request to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Friday, the Obama Administration stepped in as the Department of Interior, Department of Justice and Army Corps of Engineers issued a joint statement, temporarily halting DAPL construction bordering Lake Oahe. The Army Corps of Engineers will reconsider the decisions which authorized the pipeline’s construction. The agencies also called for more formal discussions with tribes on what they can do to ensure full tribal input.

As we wait again for the fate of the Standing Rock Sioux, it cannot be reiterated enough that there is no good to come from pipelines carrying crude oil. Companies may claim they’re for energy independence, even though there are much cleaner sources of renewable energy like solar and wind, but they are more concerned with their own profits. The threat of development against public safety for Indigenous communities is not isolated to the Standing Rock Sioux, it’s become common across the globe, and isn’t limited to oil companies alone.

Just this year alone in Peru, a 40-year-old trans-Amazonian pipeline spilled four times, one of which in February spilled three thousand barrels of crude oil into the River Chiriaco, one of the country’s largest Amazon tributaries. The oil company, PetroPeru, assured that cleanup was going well, yet they didn’t provide adequate assistance to the indigenous communities. Children were paid by company officials to clean up oil without any protective suits and many became sick as a result of the chemicals. Community members are still eating the contaminated plants and fish because they have no other resources for food and so become sick, and farmers will not be able to plant new crops or sell their produce. Even PetroPeru’s doctors just assured patients affected by the spill that they just had the flu and would get better, yet never returned for any follow up.

Despite the devastation against the Wampis and Awajun communities, PetroPeru continued pumping oil against government orders, leading to two more spills in June and August without allotting any time to fix the damaged pipeline. Even during cleanup after the February spill, site chief Victor Palomino said accidents were “inevitable.” It is unethical to continue pumping oil, knowing fully well that the pipeline is an environmental disaster waiting to occur every few months. All that does is show how little the companies care about quality-reassurance and safety.

Meanwhile in Canada, approval for the tar sands pipeline, Northern Gateway, was overturned in July after an appeal by eight First Nations, four environmental groups and a labor union found the approval unconstitutional. The consultation was “brief, hurried and inadequate,” and disregarded any environmental concerns. If the pipeline was still underway for construction, it would pose risk against their resources for food.

Oil companies are not the only ones who seem to get away with such neglect, it’s also reached to conservation groups and national agencies as well. UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz found in her report for the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress that conservation groups like the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society were forcibly displacing indigenous people around the world from their homes for infrastructure projects like hydroelectric dams. In worse cases like with the deforestation in Mato Grosso in Brazil for agriculture, indigenous people are killed by ranchers and farmers who take over their land. Not only do these conservation groups neglect to consult the people who’ve been living in such areas for years, but they also seem to find Natives incapable of taking care of their own sacred land like when people were evicted from India’s Kanha tiger reserve despite that humans and tigers can co-inhabit the same area.

“[Native peoples] are best equipped to protect the world’s most threatened forests, and have been doing so for decades,” said RRI (Rights and Resources Initiative) Coordinator Andy White in the gathering. “Yet many conservation organizations and governments still treat them as obstacles to conservation rather than partners.” Despite whatever good intentions these groups have, the good is lost when they take over sacred indigenous land.

Even national agencies garner distrust among Natives such as the EPA’s insufficient response to the Gold King Mine Spill of 2015 which damaged Navajo water supplies in the Animas River, resulting in dried up crops. Even though the EPA was found at fault and supposedly took full responsibility, they still waited two days to notify people along the river of the spill and never gave details, much less provided any adequate clean up. After a year waiting for compensation for lost crops and reassurance that the water is safe to use, the Navajo Nation sued the EPA for its neglect.

The Standing Rock Sioux face similar risks as DAPL is proposed to be built through sacred burial sites and their main water source on the Missouri River– which also provides water to 18 million people and more than 50 cities downstream–, despite obvious violations of historical preservation, indigenous treaties and environmental protection. So it’s a very strange turn of events that now the Army Corps is reversing their decision, and ordering Dakota Access to stop construction. Does it mean that they acknowledged that they made a mistake in approving DAPL?

At the moment, it doesn’t seem to be that way given that the Administration’s joint statement suggested the Corps of Engineers complied with the National Historic Preservation Act. That cannot be further from the truth, as twenty-seven identified graves have already been dug up by Dakota Access, and the company also desecrated sacred land where pledges were made and gifts were received from spirits as detailed by Tim Mentz. This announcement is in the right direction for some reconciliation with the Standing Rock Sioux, but if construction is to be halted indefinitely and the agencies want to fix relations with tribes, the Army Corps needs to admit their neglect in approving DAPL’s construction.

Whether it’s oil companies, conservation groups or national agencies, the indifference towards human rights abuses seems to carry at a higher level when it comes to Indigenous lives at stake. They need to be held accountable for their recklessness whether they want to admit fault or not. Native peoples deserve better than to be ignored and forced away from their land, or even worse die because of a company’s selfishness and neglect. When properly supported and given sovereignty over their land, both the Indigenous peoples and land thrive.

Voice your opposition to the DAPL by signing onto these petitions:

Earth Justice: https://secure.earthjustice.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1861&_ga=1.188139371.296617086.1429319754

 

 

Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline

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Image source: http://beforeitsnews.com/alternative/2016/09/more-dakota-access-protest-blackout-pipeline-bulldozes-ancient-burial-sites-over-holiday-weekend-attempts-to-provoke-violence-3408926.html (photo by Lauren McCauley) 

Pipeline Protest in Full Swing: Standing Strong with Standing Rock

Thousands of people — including members of more than 90 Native American communities — continue to reside at the Camp of the Sacred Stones in North Dakota in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

The protest camp was created by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose reservation is a short half-mile from the proposed pipeline. If completed, DAPL threatens Standing Rock’s sacred sites and their main water source, as it would transfer millions of barrels of fracked oil under the Missouri River daily.

Construction on the pipeline, which is currently halted, depends on the results of a federal lawsuit filed by the Standing Rock against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permitting Dakota Access so close to their Treaty lands. During a preliminary injunction hearing on Wednesday, federal Judge James Boasberg stated that he expects to issue a ruling on the matter by Sept. 9.

Ongoing action against the pipeline has, however, garnered significant hostility from various government agencies.

Despite being a predominantly peaceful occupation, 29 people have been placed under arrest in the last two weeks. The FBI has even been called in to investigate a report of a laser allegedly being pointed at an aircraft that was surveying the area.

Amnesty International USA stated in a press release Wednesday that they have sent a delegation of human rights observers to the camp to monitor law enforcement operations. The international NGO has grown concerned over policing efforts at the construction site following the removal of state-owned water tanks that supplied the camp — supposedly due to “public safety concerns”.

This has led to mass donations of water and other supplies, ranging from food to camping gear, to the Sacred Stone camp. These shipments, along with financial contributions, are coming in from tribal organizations, nonprofits, individuals, and —  in one case — a Native American Fraternity, Sigma Nu Alpha Gamma at Oklahoma University.

Along with sending observers to the camp, Amnesty International also sent letters to North Dakota authorities enumerating both constitutional and human rights standards they are obligated to protect while policing the protest.

“Public assemblies should not be considered as the ‘enemy,’” the letter states, “The command hierarchy must convey a clear message to law enforcement officials that their task is to facilitate and not to restrict a peaceful public assembly.“

In recent weeks, there has been a swell in support for the Standing Rock Sioux in their fight against the Bakken pipeline, both at the camp and in the media. Indigenous communities from all over the world have offered statements of solidarity with the Standing Rock via social media outlets. Several high-profile individuals, like actresses Shailene Woodley and Susan Sarandon, protested outside the U.S. District Court for Wednesday’s injunction hearing in Washington D.C.

The Lakota People’s Law Project stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, and their allies at Sacred Stone, in their fight to protect sacred water rights. It is imperative that the federal government prioritize people over pipelines, as disregard for the environmental implications of DAPL is disregard for native life and tribal sovereignty.  

Voice your opposition to the DAPL by signing onto these petitions:

Earth Justice: https://secure.earthjustice.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1861&_ga=1.188139371.296617086.1429319754 

Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline

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Image source: http://indigenousrising.org/yankton-siouxihanktonwan-to-host-government-to-government-consultation-with-us-army-corps-on-bakken-pipelinedapl/

Navajo Nation Sues EPA for Neglect in Toxic Spill

After waiting a year for compensation, the Navajo Nation sued the EPA last week for the Gold King Mine Spill of August 2015 when three million gallons of toxic waste contaminated the Animas and San Juan Rivers. Contracted workers from the EPA were trying to drain the toxic water from a dam when it ruptured from built up pressure and leaked into the rivers from Colorado to Utah and New Mexico. The chemicals turned the water yellow and made it unsafe for drinking or farming.

“For nearly two days, the USEPA did not call, alert or notify the Nation that this toxic sludge had been released and was headed into their waters and land,” the Navajo Nation said in their 48-page complaint. Even when they were alerted of the spill, they were not told details as to when it would arrive and how long it would last. This was especially concerning to more secluded communities which are farther away from outside resources like Mexican Water, Utah and waited weeks until EPA crews came out to assess damage in the area.

The color faded and the EPA reported the river was restoring itself and  was safe for use two weeks after the spill began. However, Navajo President Russell Begaye warned residents against using the water with concerns of toxins remaining in the sediment until the Nation conducted their own analysis of the river, indicating distrust in the EPA. Tanks of non-potable water were taken to farmers as an alternative to sustain their crops and livestock, yet by then approximately 2,000 Navajo farmers along the river had their crops dry up after they stopped using irrigation pumps.

Two months after the incident, the Department of Interior found in their 132-page report that the spill resulted from improperly rushed and insufficient engineering which didn’t even consider possible consequences if something went wrong. Therefore, the spill could have been prevented in the first place.

Despite the EPA taking full responsibility, there have still been no significant efforts for proper clean-ups, compensation for lost crops or health protection for the Navajo. The Nation still worries about long term health effects, including eating produce or livestock that has come into contact with the contaminated water. The health concerns also prevented farmers from effectively selling their produce, resulting in loss in profits.

The aftermath of the Gold King Mine Spill parallels to concerns of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which faces stalled construction on the Standing Rock Sioux’s land. From the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers, these organizations show almost no real concern to the potential damage affecting these people and their environment. If construction isn’t stopped now, history will repeat itself as another tribe’s livelihood faces disaster.

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Image source: http://www.mining.com/navajo-sues-epa-over-gold-king-mine-spill/

 

Protesters Sued for Delaying Pipeline Construction

Dakota Access LLC sued Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault, who was arrested for trespassing but later released from jail, and other protesters on Monday for stalling construction of the their pipeline and threatening employees and law enforcement. The next day, the Houston-based company was granted a restraining order against the defendants on the grounds that their construction permits were valid.

Dakota Access and its parent company, Energy Transfer, are also going so far as to blatantly lie and try to appear like they are in the right to construct the pipeline. An anonymous Energy Transfer spokesperson said in an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network that “Dakota Access does not cross any reservation land and is compliant with all regulations regarding tribal coordination and cultural resources.”

This absolutely contradicts the fact that maps of the pipeline obviously show it crossing through reservations, including vital water sources on the Missouri River and ancestral burial sites, which construction crews began digging up last week amid protests. The Standing Rock Sioux voiced their concerns for months now and remain ignored.

They are scrambling to justify their actions, but they can’t sweep under the rug the environmental, tribal sovereignty and historical preservation violations they continue to openly commit. There is still a major risk in damaging vital water sources given that pipelines leak thousands of gallons of oil far too often. If any concerns from Standing Rock about the pipeline’s construction were taken seriously, then Dakota Access LLC shouldn’t be at all surprised from the outrage as they dig up sacred burial sites.

Meanwhile, protests show no signs of stopping as Archambault calls for more support nationwide, including for American citizens to contact their senators and representatives, and he even hopes for intervention from President Barack Obama. Other tribes like the Oglala Sioux and Crow Creek Sioux are sending members to the construction site to protest alongside the Standing Rock Sioux. Even celebrities are joining the fight against Dakota Access, like Shailene Woodley and Jason Mamoa.

No matter how much Dakota Access tries to justify their federal violations, their relentless greed and lies will never be overlooked. Protests will not end until Standing Rock takes back their land and Dakota Access is properly held accountable for their deplorable actions.

Support the Standing Rock Sioux by signing petitions in the change.org movement Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline to demand a stop to the piepline’s construction.

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Image source: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/18082016/native-americans-sioux-tribe-protest-north-dakota-access-bakken-oil-pipeline-fossil-fuels

Check out our report calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission: http://lakotalaw.org/special-reports/truth-and-reconciliation

Please sign our petition calling for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission: http://lakotalaw.org/action

Check out our new Truth and Reconciliation t-shirts:  https://romero-institute.squarespace.com/lakotalaw-store/

 

Tribal Leaders Arrested in Pipeline Protest

The Standing Rock Sioux remain unmoved in North Dakota this week as they blocked construction crews attempting to work on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would transport crude oil across North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. The pipeline poses a threat to the natural environment and native water sources of the local people. More than a dozen protesters were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing out of the boundaries set by law enforcement.

Among those arrested include tribal officials like Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault, who is a long time fighter for tribal sovereignty. Their arrests came after construction workers dug up human remains on a sacred cultural site, and the leaders crossed the fence in outrage. This sparked more anger among protesters as they blocked the roads and began chants and war cries, which can be viewed here.

“We want to hold them back until we can get to court,” said tribal historian, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard to the Washington Times. The Standing Rock Sioux await trial after suing the Army Corps of Engineers last month for their approval of the pipeline, neglecting the obvious violations of historical preservation, environmental safety and tribal sovereignty.

Meanwhile the pipeline developers, Energy Transfer, persist in their ignorance to continue construction regardless of protest, while insisting that they care for the safety of their employees and those who live in the area.

“To that end, we will press charges against anyone who interferes in the construction of the pipeline. Construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline will continue across all four states along the route,” Energy Transfer said in an emailed statement to the Bismarck Tribune.

If they truly cared about safety, they wouldn’t be building a pipeline which has a high likelihood of leaking and contaminating the environment, especially when it is proposed to be built over the Cannonball and Missouri Rivers, which are vital water sources for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. North Dakota’s oil industry already has a massive history of leaks and spills with 8,690 reported between 2006 and 2014, including 2,390 that were not contained. With how frequently leaks and spills happen, it does little to convince that Dakota Access will be any different from all the other pipelines, especially with Native American lives at stake if Dakota Access is built.

Energy Transfer has clearly disregarded tribal sovereignty and historical preservation by going around the tribe for the sake of profit. They didn’t even so much as ask anyone at Standing Rock for permission to build the pipeline over their water sources and their sacred land. Their blatant ignorance to the Standing Rock Sioux’s concerns shows how little they really care, and will do anything in their power to continue construction, to the point of desecrating human remains and ancestral burial sites .

The irresponsibility from the Army Corps and Energy Transfer will not be ignored and neither will the justified anger from the Standing Rock Sioux. Until they realize their neglect or the courts rule in favor of the Standing Rock Sioux, the fight will continue until the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is halted for good. The Lakota People’s Law Project stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight.

Dakota Access Approved: Resistance Unfolds

With blatant disregard for tribal and environmental health, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the majority of permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline — a project that will transport crude oil through several states and over 200 separate water crossings.

The Corps announced approval of nearly all of the project’s necessary permits last week, despite ongoing vocal and legal opposition from landowners, activists, and tribes of the Dakotas. Requests by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Interior and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation for a full environmental review prior to the permits’ approval were similarly ignored.

Undeterred by months of collective outrage, construction on the project has already begun. Energy Transfer’s spokesperson stated that their goal is to have the pipeline in operation by the end of this year.

For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the pipeline is more than just another show of federal dismissal to tribal sovereignty, but a looming threat to the community’s water supply and their entire way of life. The disheartening news of approval for Dakota Access, however, has not stalled tribal activism against it.

By carrying crude oil through native territory, under the Missouri River, and across waterways significant to tribal peoples, the Dakota Access Pipeline is a high stakes gamble for the lives the Standing Rock Sioux. The simple fact of the matter is that fracking oil and then transporting massive distances is not safe and it threatens wildlife and human water sources. Between 2006 and 2014, there were 8,690 reported incidents of oil and brine spills in North Dakota’s oil industry; the completion of Dakota Access will surely increase this number to record-high levels.

On Wednesday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps through Earthjustice in Washington D.C. The complaint cites a violation of National Historic Preservation Act, as well the Corps’ dismissal of tribal input and culturally significant sites when permitting the project.  

“We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “But the Army Corps has ignored all those laws and fast-tracked this massive project just to meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.”

Proposed by the Texas-based company Energy Transfer, Dakota Access is slated to cost 3.4 billion dollars and stretch 1,164 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois. Also called the Bakken pipeline, it will carry 450,000 barrels of fracked oil from the Bakken Shale Formation in North Dakota to Illinois, where it will then be transported to Gulf Coast refineries.

Prioritization of Big Oil over Native American lives is troubling, but it’s not new.  “The Corps has a long history of going against the wishes and health of tribal nations” said the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Projected to be built in close proximity to the Standing Rock reservation’s northern border, the pipeline threatens contamination of the Missouri River. Because of this, the tribe launched a campaign called “Rezpect Our Water” several months ago, which has since gained international visibility and celebrity endorsements. The grassroots initiative involved tribal leaders and youth to raise awareness about the potential ramifications of the pipeline.

The ignorance of the Army Corps to the necessary legal and ethical parameters is systemic within federal attitudes toward native lands. It is simply unacceptable that a whole tribe’s way of life be put at risk for the sake of large energy revenues.

What’s worse is that the tax revenues being offered to other counties along the pipeline’s path will not be offered to Sioux County. Meaning, for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, their land will be put at risk while they will see no financial benefit from it.

The fight, as activists and indigenous communities have voiced, is far from over: “this decision,” said the Indigenous Environmental Network, “will not deter resistance against the dirty Bakken pipeline”.

Less than a week following the permits’ approval, there are already reports of vigilante resistance. Around 6am yesterday morning, Iowa news outlets began reporting fires on three separate construction sites along the Dakota Access route in the center of the state.

Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty noted that the fires seemed to be intentionally set along the pipeline, targeting the equipment, and caused a million dollars in damage to the machinery. There are no suspects thus far in the ongoing investigation.

This morning, protesters are gathered in Bismarck, North Dakota, on the grounds of Capitol to demand that legislators put a stop to the pipeline’s construction.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refused to acknowledge the push-back of native interest groups, their allies, and environmental agencies when beginning construction; in doing so, they have opened up the door to new and increased forms of counteraction.

When Native Americans are totally discounted from major infrastructure decisions and their safety and ways of life are not prioritized, it shows the unethical framework in which development occurs in this country. Approving the Dakota Access pipeline is a dangerous and irresponsible move on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps. It reflects the devaluation of Native American lives and their ecological sovereignty, something that must perpetually be resisted.

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Dispatches from Indian Country