MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge in Washington on Friday denied an attempt by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe to halt construction of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline that passes near its reservation in North Dakota. Here’s a look at some key points from U.S. District Judge James Boasberg’s 58-page opinion:
“This Court does not lightly countenance any depredation of lands that hold significance to the Standing Rock Sioux. Aware of the indignities visited upon the Tribe over the last centuries, the Court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care. Having done so, the Court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.”
The tribe argued that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had a duty under the National Historic Preservation Act to consult with the tribe before issuing a permit for the pipeline, but the judge wrote that the corps probably has complied with the law. He also said the tribe hasn’t shown it will suffer any harm that the court has the authority to prevent. So he denied the request for an injunction.
Contrary to the tribe’s assertions that it was left out of the process, Boasberg said, the corps has documented dozens of its attempts to engage with Standing Rock officials in consultations to identify historical resources at Lake Oahe and other places covered by the permit. The corps was not required to consider the effects along the entire pipeline route because the corps has jurisdiction only where the route crosses water, he noted.
CHANCES TO CONSULT
Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners and the corps gave Standing Rock officials several chances to weigh in in 2014, but tribal officials didn’t take advantage of those opportunities, the judge wrote. Relations between the tribe and corps didn’t improve in 2015, when tribal officials canceled several meetings, according to the ruling.
“Suffice it to say that the Tribe largely refused to engage in consultations,” he wrote. “It chose instead to hold out for more — namely, the chance to conduct its own cultural surveys over the entire length of the pipeline.”
The tribe did provide timely and extensive comments earlier this year on a draft environmental assessment, and the corps and tribe held several meetings to discuss the cultural surveys, the judge wrote.
Ninety-nine percent of the route for the Dakota Access pipeline crosses private land, and 48 percent of it has already been completed, the ruling noted. Most of the route doesn’t require a federal permit — only the 3 percent that crosses streams and other waters in more than 200 places.
The ruling said Dakota Access hired professional archaeologists to survey the entire route through the Dakotas and much of Iowa and Illinois for cultural resources. When the surveys revealed previously unidentified resources, the company changed the route on its own 140 times in North Dakota alone to avoid them, the judge said, and the corps ordered the company to change the route where it crossed the James River to avoid burial sites there.