Tag Archives: pipeline

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]

 

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/

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/

 

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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Image source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CoLclpmXgAEX9E6.jpg

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/

Court Overturns Pipeline Permit, Victory for First Nations

The First Nations peoples of Canada are rejoicing after a Federal Court of Appeal decision overturned approval for the Northern Gateway project, a controversial tar sands pipeline twelve years in the making. The defeat of this pipeline is a landmark achievement for both indigeneity and climate justice in Canada.

“We’re all celebrating a victory for the oceans and our way of life,” said Peter Lantin, president of the council of the Haida Nation in a statement made following the ruling.

Projected to cost 6.5-7.5 billion dollars (USD), Northern Gateway, a pipeline proposed by Canadian energy giant Enbridge, was greenlighted by the country’s Conservative government in 2014. The pipeline would have stretched 731 miles from Alberta to the northern British Columbia, and would haul 525,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen tar sands oil through traditional indigenous territories.

Last October, eight First Nations tribes, four environmental groups and a labor union mounted an appeal against the pipeline and argued that the 2014 approval wasn’t constitutional. As environmental justice lawyer Barry Robinson told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this month, these groups collectively “said no to Enbridge 12 years ago when it first proposed the project.”

Now, it seems likely that Northern Gateway faces too many obstacles to ever see construction. The quashing of the pipeline highlights the significance and success of indigenous activism and its alliance with environmentalist causes.

The 2-to-1 ruling, released on June 30, affirmed that the government and energy firm Enbridge had failed to properly consult the First Nations and Metis communities while planning the construction and route of the project. In a 153-page judgment, the consultation was ruled to be “brief, hurried, and inadequate” and found that entire subjects affecting indigenous people — like well-being and subsistence issues — had been completely dismissed.

“This decision confirms what we have known all along,” says Chief Larry Nooski of Nadleh Whut’en First Nation in a statement through the Yinka Dene Alliance, “the federal government’s consultation on this project fell well short of the mark.”

Canada’s watershed Truth and Reconciliation Commission requires, noted in the nation’s constitution, that there must be “meaningful consultation” with the First Nations before projects like the Enbridge pipeline are greenlighted by federal entities. It’s 94 conditions require that any infrastructure proposed for sovereign territories have free, prior, and informed consent from native communities before moving forward. As the court found, no “reasonable efforts” to do so were made by the National Energy Board of Canada.

If built, Northern Gateway would pose an ecological risk to important bioregional resources for native communities, threatening economic and food sovereignty. The construction would pollute pristine eco-systems and bring oil tankers to native land. Similarly, a spill would reek devastating environmental harm for all of Canada.

However, it is important to note that this ruling may not be the final nail in the coffin for the pipeline or others like it. The President of Enbridge Northern Gateway, John Carruthers, issued an official statement following the ruling project is “critical” for the infrastructure of Canada and that the firm is committed to seeing it completed.

The project will return to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for “prompt redetermination” and will be reexamined by his Liberal administration. It is hopeful, though, that Trudeau’s well-noted opposition to the pipeline — a platform he campaigned on — will stand firm. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister stated “I’ve said many times, the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a crude oil pipeline.”

For the native communities of Canada, this decision is the result of a decade-long fight to protect their land and waters. It is the hope of the involved communities that the Trudeau government will not re-approve the project and following administrations will continue to prioritize environmental and native protections over nonrenewable energy profits.

Some First Nation communities, like the Gitga’at, are careful to heed that the struggle for indigenous territory is not over. It is commonly realized that where Northern Gateway failed, another will surely take its place. This necessitates that, in order to preserve resources for future generations, governments and indigenous communities must work together and maintain mutual respect.

The majority ruling further stands as a testament to the importance of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and the juxtaposition between native interests and environmental sustainability.

Oil company ignores protests on Standing Rock Reservation, begins construction

Construction began on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP) earlier this week. Residents in the rural areas of the Dakotas, Iowa and Illinois — where the pipe will run through — celebrated the thousands of new jobs the project would create and the new economic growth it would bring to their communities. Meanwhile, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe fiercely protested the pipeline’s risk of an oil spill, which would contaminate the reservation’s only water source.

Standing Rock tribal members have been protesting the Dakota Pipeline for months. They began the campaign Rezpect Our Water to inform people on how the seemingly profitable multi-billion dollar project would mean disaster for the people of the Standing Rock reservation. The campaign website features video and letters from Standing Rock youth condemning the DAP:

“Our water isn’t the best. We don’t need it to be worse.”

—Anastasia White Mountain, 16

“I know you just want the money and everything but do you really want people hating you because you are helping to build the pipelines? Building the pipelines in the middle of our river is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard in my life.”

—Alice Mae Iron Road, 14

“It is our land and has been our land since day one. It is our ancestors’ land, not yours.”

—Jeremy Allen Lester Jr., 14

The DAP will stretch 1,168 miles and connect pipelines in North Dakota to pipelines in Illinois, transporting about 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day. If the DAP ruptures, it will leak thousands of gallons of crude oil into the water that reservation residents rely on to cook, drink, and bathe in, poisoning the water beyond purification.

The Standing Rock Sioux reservation is the sixth-largest Indian reservation in the U.S., but the DAP’s potential effects on the reservation have been largely ignored by popular media. Several Hollywood stars have gotten behind the Rezpect Our Water campaign in an effort to increase its visibility, including Leonardo DiCaprio, a longtime environmental activist, and Jason Momoa, a native Hawaiian.

Several mainstream media outlets have been closely covering the DAP, but many articles focus on farmers’ concerns that the pipeline will not being finished soon enough. In a Des Moines Register article from May 12, one farmer says he wants the pipeline finished this year so that construction doesn’t extend into his 2017 crop year. He says it would interfere with his soil preparation and timeline for crop planting, resulting in lost yields.

While a delay in the pipeline construction would take a toll on some Midwestern states’ agriculture industries, the impacts would be mild in contrast to the Standing Rock reservation, where consequences would be much, much worse in the event of an oil spill.

The $3.8 billion pipeline has received permission for construction from three of the four states through which the pipe will run, with the exception being Iowa. Dakota Access filed a request with the Iowa Utilities Board two weeks ago to begin construction on land for which it has landowner approval and does not require federal permits. Iowa approved the project in March and the company hoped to get the green light to begin construction on Tuesday, but after stating that many landowners argued against the pipeline running through their property, the Iowa Utilities Board announced that it wanted more time to review comments and would delay its decision until further notice.

The U.S. Army of Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been assigned the task of ensuring that the pipeline will have no adverse effects on wildlife and natural resources. As of May 20, the USACE has not issued any permits, and yet Dakota Access has begun construction anyway, at least in areas that don’t require federal permits. But in order for the company to finish its project, it requires the USACE’s go-ahead.

More than 100,000 people have signed a Change.org petition started by 13-year-old Anna Lee Rain YellowHammer calling for the USACE to reject the DAP. YellowHammer is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and lives in Fort Yates, North Dakota.

“My friends and I have played in the river since we were little; my great grandparents raised chickens and horses along it,” YellowHammer’s petition reads. “With such a high chance that this pipeline will leak, I can only guess that the oil industry keeps pushing for it because they don’t care about our health and safety. It’s like they think our lives are more expendable than others’.”

Dakota Access claims, “Pipelines are the safest mode of transporting crude oil,” on its website. When compared to transportation by rail or by road, which carry strong potential for car accidents, derailment, and explosions, transportation by pipeline is the obvious safe choice. But that does not mean it is safe, and that does not mean it should be built across a water source.

There were 8,690 reported incidents of oil and brine spills in North Dakota’s oil industry between 2006 and 2014. Just this week, a saltwater-oil mixture spilled at a site operated by Denbury Onshore LLC in Marmath, North Dakota — a three-hour drive west of the Standing Rock reservation.

This is not a matter of if the Dakota Access Pipeline will leak. It’s a matter of when. And when it does leak, people’s lives will be radically changed for the worst. Access to clean water isn’t a privilege, it’s a human right. By building the pipeline, Dakota Access is declaring that it is more concerned with its profits than with Native lives.

The future of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation rests on the USACE’s decision. A rejection would stop the pipeline dead in its trenches and prevent irreparable damage. But if the USACE approves the pipeline, the people of Standing Rock will inevitably suffer. Hundreds of oil spills occur every year; it would be foolish to think one couldn’t happen in the Missouri River. The Lakota people have faced and continue to face excessive abuse from their state governments, and they can’t afford to be abused any more. The USACE needs to reject the DAP, or it risks putting the entire Standing Rock reservation in harm’s way.

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Pipeline Leak Increases Concerns in Native American Communities

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What was originally estimated as a 187 gallon Keystone Pipeline oil spill in Freeman, South Dakota has now drastically increased to nearly 17,000 gallons. TransCanada, the energy company that created the Keystone Pipeline, shut it down for repairs and cleanup when a leak was reported on April 2nd. No threat to the environment or public health was reported, and the pipeline is running again at a reduced pressure.

Despite TransCanada’s quick response, the threat of environmental damage still worries environmental activists and especially Native American communities, who oppose further construction of pipelines. This leak is the Keystone Pipeline’s 35th since it was established in 2010. It should have been reported by one of TransCanada’s automatic monitoring systems, but was instead found by local farmer Loren Schultz.

According to a report by the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA), the leak was caused by a problem in the welding that connected the pipes together. The pipe that failed was made by Welspun,  headquartered in India, which is known for their low-quality pipes.

These developments are fueling concerns from communities like the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota, who face the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline being built on their water supply in the Missouri River. There is a high possibility that Dakota Access, the company building the pipeline, will repeat the same mistakes as TransCanada. This time, a leak could bring more severe damage, considering it would contaminate the water supply that thousands of people rely on.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, recently approved by the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB), will run from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa, and will end in Patoka, Illinois. Dakota Access still needs approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources before constructions begins. However, none of the Sioux people on the nearby reservations were consulted about the pipeline crossing over their water supply, and their pleas for it being built elsewhere are being ignored.

The Dakota Access Pipeline violates the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act, since its construction over a body of water was not authorized by the U.S Congress. It also violates the National Historical Preservation Act because the reservation is home to sacred Native lands and the burial site of the Lakota leader Tatanka Iyotake, better known as “Sitting Bull.” The IUB is also facing a lawsuit from the Northwest Iowa Landowners Association, which argues that Dakota Access has no right to seize property for the pipeline.

According to Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault, the Dakota Access Pipeline not only threatens their water supply, but also sacred natural lands where eagles gather every spring.

“We still exist and we need to protect what little we have left because so much as been taken from us,” Archambault said in an interview with RT America.

Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to more carefully review and revise its preliminary plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline, adding there should be a closer look into the impacts a spill would have on drinking water for Native American tribes. If a proper investigation is not done and the Corps approves the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux Nation is prepared to sue for environmental and historical preservation violations.

Dakota Access claims to care about the surrounding communities, but their actions have proven the opposite, they’re blinded by dollar signs and are spewing lies meant to comfort and assure people that nothing will go wrong. Considering how prevalent leaks are, the Dakota Access Pipeline will leak sooner or later, especially if they choose to cut corners and buy the cheapest pipes like TransCanada. Energy Independence should not come at the cost of endangering thousands of lives, forcibly taking property and destroying the environment—TransCanada and Dakota Access would beg to differ.

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

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Dakota Pipeline Threatens Tribal Water Sources

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In a last ditch effort to protect the Missouri river from the Dakota Access Pipeline, dozens of tribal members from South and North Dakota gathered last Friday to protest. A camp has been set up at the point where the proposed pipeline would cross the river, and protesters plan to stay until the pipeline is stopped.

Members from the Standing Rock nation, Cheyenne River Lakota, and Rosebud Sioux, are saying Tribes were not properly consulted about the proposed pipeline, which has been approved by state regulators and now awaits federal confirmation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The proposed 1,130 mile, $3.8 billion pipeline will carry approximately 500,000 barrels a day from the Bakken oil fields in the western part of North Dakota to Illinois, and will also travel through South Dakota and Iowa in the process. It would cross the Missouri river, just yards from tribal lands, and pass through historic lands including burial grounds.

A portion of the pipeline would be constructed sixty-feet underneath the mouth of the Cannonball River, a tributary of the Missouri river and the municipal water source of the Standing Rock Tribe. If a leak or malfunction were to occur, the Tribe’s cherished water source would immediately be jeopardized.

There are approximately 2.5 million miles of pipeline transporting natural gas and crude oil throughout the United States, and leaks resulting in catastrophic consequences for the surrounding communities and environment occur annually.

Last year in May, a devastating spill occurred near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara, California. The corroded pipeline spilled approximately 142,800 gallons of crude oil into the pacific ocean and coastline. Within 24 hours, the oil polluted nine miles of coastline in Santa Barbara, with an estimated $250 million in damages.

Earlier this week, a “potential leak” in southeastern South Dakota has led TransCanada Corporation to investigate and cease operations on a portion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

While most of these leaks are due to corrosive pipes that had been constructed decades prior, the same notion of “it’ll happen eventually” is at the forefront of the Dakota Access pipeline protests. Additionally, the recent developments of the Keystone XL pipeline’s infrastructure, which was built less than a decade ago, raises further issues.

Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based energy company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, insists they are committed to “minimizing and mitigating the impacts to land properties,” boasting that pipelines are the safest and most efficient method of transporting energy resources.

ETP’s statements are deceptive, the proposed pipeline’s construction could seriously jeopardize the livelihood of the tribe and surrounding communities. Energy Transfer Partners are disregarding the concerns of local tribes, and a federal approval for the pipeline without a proper environmental impact study could ultimately lead to a grave environmental disaster in the region.

Pipelines are “ticking time bombs,” said Tony Iallonardo, communications director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, in an interview with ProPublica.

Any pipeline could rupture from inevitable exposure to the elements over time, and in this context, it is clear why Standing Rock and others are opposing it and pushing for a comprehensive environmental impact assessment.