What have we learned so far in 2017? Well, a Trump presidency means big changes, and one of those changes, is undoing the progress made by protesters regarding the Dakota Pipeline. I have previously written about this pipeline.
Trump’s Pipeline Policy
Most recently in the Dakota Pipeline debacle… Trump announced in a memo that he believed “construction and operation of lawfully permitted pipeline infrastructure serve the national interest.” The memo directed the Secretary of the Army to instruct the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take the necessary steps to complete the pipeline, namely, to issue the final easement to complete construction. The easement covers 1.25 miles of land where the pipeline will run under the Missouri River.
Trump issued a separate memo to the Secretary of Commerce to develop a plan to use only American materials and equipment to construct “all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired, or expanded pipelines, inside the borders of the United States.” The memo focused on the use of American steel and iron.
Take it to the Courts
In the new year, parties opposing construction of the Dakota Pipeline have returned to the courts. All motions have been filed at a district court in Washington DC.
Two Lakota tribes filed a temporary restraining order, which the judge denied; however, the judge did order that the pipeline company provide weekly information. The pipeline company must provide updates about when the pipeline will begin transporting oil. Further, the judge scheduled a hearing on February 27, 2017 for a hearing on a preliminary injunction.
Although it may not sound like much, this may be a win for the tribes. A temporary restraining order requires exigency, whereas the judge here found that since the oil wasn’t currently flowing, there was no immediate harm. The judge left the door open for further court action. Additionally, by providing for a hearing on a preliminary injunction, a more permanent solution than a temporary restraining order, the judge has ultimately offered a better solution. The court could grant a permanent injunction, but I don’t see that happening.
An attorney for the Dakota Pipeline stated that the pipeline could transport oil in thirty days or sooner; however, this estimate is much more optimistic than statements from other representatives. Energy Transfer Partners, the Dallas-based company financing the pipeline, stated, “We have started the drill to go beneath Lake Oahe and expect to be completed in 60 days.”
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
The Sioux tribe initially filed a motion about freedom of religion, stating that the pipeline would “desecrate the Tribe’s sacred waters,” presumably the Missouri River and Lake Oahe. The section of pipeline that needs to be completed also passes through sacred burial grounds and archaeological sites. If the pipeline was to move forward, it would result in “plain irreparable harm.” The judge denied the motion.
An attorney for the Sioux tribe stated that they intend to file a motion for partial summary judgment under the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act and Administrative Process Act. This motion is based on the fact that former President Obama ordered the Army Corps of Engineers, the party controlling the river and lake, to ask the pipeline company to submit environmental impact reports on alternative routes.
When Trump issued his memorandum, his order insinuated that such reports were no longer necessary and that construction needed to move forward as quickly as possible. When the Army Corps failed to fully investigate the effect of the pipeline on the environment, specifically the lake and the river, it allegedly violated the previously mentioned Acts.
The attorney for the Sioux tribe summarized this notion in court documents, stating, “Within a few days of his inauguration, the new President abandoned this commitment — perpetuating our nation’s pattern of broken promises to the Tribe (Trump Speak with Forked Tongue) — and directed the Army to ‘review and approve’ pipeline permits on an expedited basis.” He further stated, “We will ask the judge to declare that the Trump administration’s actions in approving this project were illegal, arbitrary and capricious.”
Although much of the news is focusing on Trump and the status of the Dakota Pipeline, some outlets have reported about the effect of the protesters on the environment. During the initial protests, the area was covered in snow and temperatures were freezing, causing concern over the well-being of the protesters.
Now, however, the weather has warmed up, the snow is beginning to melt, and waste from the protesters may threaten the environment. The protesters have been camping in a spot where the land is relatively low. As the snow melts, that particular area, between the Missouri and Cannonball rivers, is known for flooding. If the protesters do not efficiently clean up all garbage and human waste, it is at risk of contaminating the rivers.
The Dakota Pipeline is just another example of Trump “undoing” what some considered to be progress by the Obama administration. The battle over the pipeline is far from over. After the February 27th court date, maybe the parties, and the rest of the country, will see some resolution. Then again, as any good lawyer knows, battles in the courtroom take time. As they say, Rome — and apparently, the Dakota Pipeline — wasn’t built in a day! Time wounds all heels ! — Mace
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For more information regarding Nevada laws, or if you feel your rights have been violated, please call Mace Yampolsky & Associates. Call or text us at (702) 385-9777. We are available 24/7 for emergencies. If you need help, CALL NOW before it is too late. We can help!