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Standing Rock withdraws from the Dakota Access Pipeline Environmental Review – InForum

Standing Rock withdraws from the Dakota Access Pipeline Environmental Review – InForum

BISMARCK The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe declared Thursday, January 27, that it had withdrawn from the federal government’s ongoing environmental assessment of Dakota Access Pipeline operations.

Leaders of the tribe criticized the lack of transparency by the pipeline operators and the U.S. Army Corps of Engieers during the environmental review process. They also pointed out recent low water levels in Missouri River and Lake Oahe reservoirs that they claimed would increase damages if oil were to escape through the pipeline.

Doug Crow Ghost, Administrator for the Tribes Water Resources Department, stated in a statement that the lake’s water levels are now 12 feet lower than they were two years ago. However, the Corps continues to release water at Oahe, as if business as usual.

Standing Rock leaders stated that they have not been shown a complete and unredacted version by the Army Corps of the plans of the pipeline operators for an emergency reaction in the event of a leaking pipe. Crow Ghost claimed that the plans do not account the recent low water levels, making key access points to Lake Michigan unusable.

He said that the possibility of an oil spillage in such low water levels is extremely frightening.

A federal district judge mandated the Army Corps environmental review of Dakota Access in spring 2020. The same judge also revoked the pipeline’s environmental permit at the Missouri River crossing and ordered its immediate shutdown. A higher court overturned the shutdown order, but the required environmental review has not been modified.

A spokesperson for Omaha District of Army Corps, the division that is conducting the environmental review, declined comment on Thursday. Dakota Access’ parent company, Energy Transfer, did not immediately respond. 

Janet Alkire is Standing Rock Tribal Chairperson. She was elected to her position last fall. The Army Corps has two options for ensuring safety of tribal members: either “raise Lake Oahe up to safe levels” or “shut down the Dakota Access pipeline instantly.”

Standing Rocks’ decision to withdraw itself from the environmental review is a few months later

The tribe asked the Army Corps to cancel the assessment and allow them to start over

The tribe claimed that the federal government was conducting a biased review and not meeting its obligations. Former Chairman Mike Faith stated at the time that the process was already fatally flawed.

The tribe was a party to the environmental review and had access to draft versions. They claim that this revealed that the Army Corps routinely withheld key information from them and ignored submissions of technical or cultural information.

A spokesperson for GAIN Coalition (an organization that supports Dakota Access) stated that Standing Rock “continues promote misinformation about it, and expressed confidence in the results of the environment review that it will be operating safely.

Craig Stevens said that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribes decision not to cooperate with the Corps review on DAPL was disappointing. Although the Tribes’ decision to not cooperate is within their purview, it highlights that this whole exercise was a solution in search for a regulatory problem.

The Army Corps will listen to public comments about a draft version before releasing the final version. Standing Rock spokesperson said that they expect the draft to be published in mid-February.

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The agency is expected to use the results of this review in its decision on whether to restore the pipeline’s revoked permit.

The Missouri River has been experiencing lower than normal water levels for the past year due to drought conditions in North Dakota, the western United States and West Virginia. According to the Army Corps, which manages flows along the river through several dams,

A news release from earlier in the month

It would decrease flows to conserve water in reservoirs in the event of drought.

Energy Transfer also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court a case mandating an environmental assessment. The appeal conference will be held next month by the high court and it could announce whether or not it will hear the case of the pipeline company.

Since 2017, Dakota Access has been transporting oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region to the market. Energy Transfer is expanding the pipeline’s capacity. The most recent estimate states that it can transport up to 750,000 barrels oil per day.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.

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