Tribal chairman slams Biden White House inaction on Dakota Access Pipeline after Supreme Court tribal win
The time to shut down the non-permitted pipeline is now, tribal #noDAPL advocates implore White House.
WASHINGTON — Chairman Harold Frazier, of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, is calling on President Joe Biden to immediately shut down the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which has been operating without a permit since 2017.
Frazier has sent an emergency letter to the White House urging the closure after the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 22 declined to hear Energy Transfer LP’s challenge to the federal government’s continued environmental review of its DAPL pipeline.
“Cease the operation and remove the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Frazier wrote in his letter to Biden, which went on to highlight treaties that have been broken by the federal government regarding both the Black Hills and in allowing DAPL to operate.
An excerpt of Frazier’s Feb. 23 letter follows:
Energy Transfer’s worst fears are coming true after the Supreme Court’s decision not to get involved, as tribes and advocates are becoming re-energized on the “#noDAPL” resistance front. The operator has not offered comment to date specifically on the high court’s order, but it did say previously that the pipeline is “vulnerable to a shutdown” given standing court rulings.
The DAPL developer has long been concerned that the Biden administration could decide to shut down the pipeline as an environmental review process by the U.S. Army Cops of Engineers and other federal officials plays out. Those worries were compounded when Biden cancelled the Keystone XL Pipeline during his first days in office, due to environmental concerns.
The Trump administration, which was much more friendly to DAPL and all fossil-fuel interests, allowed it to proceed without a federal permit, starting in 2017.
DAPL lies in part under areas of Lake Oahe in the Dakotas, which is a drinking water source for several tribes in the region and connects to the Missouri River.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and nearby tribes, including the Cheyenne Sioux, gained international attention for their “#noDAPL” protests, which began during the Obama administration.
But Nicole Ducheneaux, a lawyer for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe with Big Fire Law & Policy Group, told Indigenous Wire on Wednesday that the Obama administration’s actions were “ too little, too late” to prevent what ultimately came to fore during the Trump administration, thus putting the health and water and lands of Indigenous citizens at risk.
“Elections have consequences,” Ducheneaux said. “Many people are worried that the Biden administration could be one term, so time is again of the essence here, and we are all trying to make sure the White House understands that.”
Adding to the concern: The Biden administration did not take action to curtail the Enbridge Line 3 project, affecting several Ojibwe tribes, instead allowing it to be completed last year without a full environmental review.
Ducheneaux said that the affected tribes are hopeful that the Supreme Court’s decision not to allow a challenge to the DAPL environmental review would “light a fire” under the White House to stop oil pumping through the currently non-permitted line, but so far no indication has come from the White House that such a prospect is on the table.
“Maybe they’re busy, but it’s not like they haven’t known about this issue for a long time,” she said.
Hence, Frazier and other tribal leaders and advocates are ramping up their advocacy, putting pressure on an administration that Frazier has already said has paid lip service to too many serious tribal matters, including consultation.
After Frazier made some of his frustrations clear during the White House Tribal Nations Summit in November, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and a delegation of federal officials made an effort to travel to his area to sit down and talk with him and other tribal leaders.
While Haaland may have temporarily put a band-aid on flaring tribal tempers, the continued lack of a strong pro-tribal White House position on DAPL is causing her goodwill to wear thin, according to Ducheneaux and others.
“The DAPL protests, started by a group of Lakota women, was part of an overall movement that helped sweep President Biden into office,” Ducheneaux added. “The White House needs to remember that fact.”
But memories appear to be short, according to some key players.
“[M]any people are disappointed with this [administration] on fossil fuel production and transport,” Jan Hasselman, a lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, previously told Indigenous Wire.
Hasselman, of the Earthjustice firm, said it’s “hard to align [the Biden administration’s] actions with their words…so we keep pushing.”
Federal courts have called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a full risk-spill analysis as part of the ongoing environmental impact statement (EIS).
Tribes had originally been told by the Biden administration that such a review would likely be complete by September, but then the date got pushed back to November by White House Native affairs special advisor Libby Washburn for unknown reasons that the administration isn’t explaining, and now lawyers in the case, including Hasselman, have been told “sometime next year.”
“Why is the Biden White House dragging its feet?” is a question Ducheneaux says that many tribal citizens and “#noDAPL” water protectors and land defenders are asking. “The law is on the tribes’ side, and the tribal citizens who helped elect them have made clear that President Biden needs to care for their health and safety. The time is now.”
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