Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Challenges Latest DAPL Move in Court*
By Yessenia Funes
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a legal brief yesterday (February 14) in their ongoing case against the Army Corps of Engineers. The motion asks the U.S. district court judge to reverse the Army’s move to grant an easement to developer Energy Transfer Partners on an expedited schedule.
Attorneys at Earthjustice had already notified U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg that they’d be filing a summary judgement.
“The motion for summary judgment asks the judge to rule on major legal questions that have not yet been resolved during this case, including whether National Environmental Policy Act requirements have been met and whether the Corps’ actions violate the tribe’s treaty rights,” the environmental law firm wrote in a press statement on its site.
The tribe is now arguing that the recent Corps’ decision—as well as the initial permits it granted in July 2016—is “arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.” This include’s the administration’s move to reverse the Environmental Impact Statement process.
The plaintiffs are asking pipeline attorneys to respond within three weeks given that the attorneys say oil could be flowing in 30 days or fewer. Read the complete court filing here.
A U.S. federal court judge ruled yesterday (February 13) against a temporary restraining order that the Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux tribes requested to halt construction of the remainder of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed the motion on February 9, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe joined their case the following day in response to the Army Corps of Engineers granting developer Energy Transfer Partners the final easement on February 8.
The tribes used a religious argument that hadn’t yet been presented to the judge:
“The Lakota people believe that the mere existence of a crude oil pipeline under the waters of Lake Oahe will desecrate those waters and render them unsuitable for use in their religious sacraments…
The Lakota people believe that the pipeline correlates with a terrible Black Snake prophesied to come into the Lakota homeland and cause destruction… The Lakota believe that the very existence of the Black Snake under their sacred waters in Lake Oahe will unbalance and desecrate the water and render it impossible for the Lakota to use that water in their Inipi ceremony… Without access to natural, unadulterated, and ritually pure water, the Lakota people cannot practice their religion. As Lake Oahe is the only natural, unadulterated, and ritually pure water available to the Tribe—a trust resource for which the United States owes the Tribe a fiduciary duty—desecration of these waters represents a substantial burden on the Tribe’s religious exercise. The United States cannot meet its burden of demonstrating that a compelling governmental interest justifies siting this pipeline under these sacred waters owned by the Tribe. And as the Corps has considered a litany of alternatives to placing the pipeline at this location under Lake Oahe, it cannot meet its burden of demonstrating that the crossing of the pipeline under Lake Oahe is the least restrictive means of furthering any governmental interest.”
U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in September 2016, but the Obama administration intervened. The same is not expected now that Jeff Sessions is heading the Department of Justice.
The tribes also filed for a preliminary injunction. Boasberg will hear the case February 27. This ruling, however, will not affect the greater case the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed in July 2016, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Attorneys at Earthjustice who are representing the tribe, will file a motion for summary judgment today (February 14) to expedite the court’s ruling, says Phillip Ellis, senior press secretary for Earthjustice. “We’re trying to get a decision on this case before oil is flowing through the pipeline,” he informed Colorlines. Attorneys for the pipeline told the judge that oil could be flowing in 30 days or less. The summary judgment will add a new element to their case which alleges the administration’s decision to reverse that Environmental Impact Statement process on the pipeline was illegal.
A separate motion is moving through the courts from the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, who are requesting an injunction on the pipeline. They filed the suit against the Army February 11.