By Jesse Phelps
BISMARCK, N.D. — The chairmen of the Standing Rock, Oglala, and Cheyenne River Nations say the court-mandated environmental review process for the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) is “fatally flawed and irredeemable.” Now, they’re asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to replace the contractor responsible for conducting it, which has clear ties to Big Oil and a vested interest in DAPL’s continued operation.
DAPL, operational since 2017, continues to pose a grave threat to the sacred lands and sole source of fresh drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Help the tribes pressure the Army Corps right now by sending an email to Jaime Pinkham, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. Tell Mr. Pinkham: DAPL needs real environmental oversight from the federal government via the Department of the Interior, and the process must not employ contractors beholden to Big Oil.
Chairman Mike Faith of the Standing Rock Nation, Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Nation, and Oglala Sioux Tribe President Kevin Killer sent a letter to Mr. Pinkham on Sept. 22 detailing the contractor’s conflict of interest.
“The Corps has selected as contractor to perform the [Environmental Impact Statement] a company that is a member of an organization that actively opposed the Tribes in the litigation,” the letter states. “The contractor — Environmental Resources Management (“ERM”) — is a member of the American Petroleum Institute, which filed two amicus briefs in the district court on behalf of its members arguing against vacating the easement for DAPL. Moreover, ERM staff people testified in the South Dakota Public Utility Commission proceeding in favor of permitting the pipeline. In essence, ERM is an agent of DAPL, rather than a neutral party.”
The tribes also claim the Army Corps has not shared critical information with the tribes, as required by law. Their demand to Mr. Pinkham also includes “full transparency of all technical documents and communications” with tribal leadership and the inclusion of the U.S. Department of the Interior (now led by Deb Haaland, the first Native Cabinet secretary in U.S. history) as a “co-equal cooperating agency with appropriate expertise to assist the Corps in centering Tribal impacts and concerns.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, represented by attorneys at Earthjustice, has led on legal challenges to DAPL since its inception. Resulting judgments against DAPL led to the requirement of a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The lack of proper oversight with respect to tribal concerns also led to the vacature of DAPL’s federal permits, but neither a court nor the executive branch has yet been willing to stop the pipeline’s operations.
As a result, DAPL essentially continues to operate illegally, carrying oil through unceded treaty lands and past the doorstep of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. But the tribes are not going away, and this fight is not over. Please continue to stand with the Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, and Oglala Nations. Tell Jaime Pinkham: Conduct real environmental oversight of the Dakota Access pipeline — free of contractors beholden to Big Oil and inclusive of expertise from the Department of the Interior.