Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump Revives Dakota Pipeline, With Some Ambiguity As To Tribal Objections

As reported by the Washington Post, President Trump yesterday issued a Presidential Memorandum (full text) directing the Secretary of the Army to expedite approval of construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  One reason DAPL has been controversial is that it was routed to run a half mile from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, impinged on sacred tribal burial and historical sites and also created oil spill concerns by the tribe. To deal with these concerns, in December the U.S. Army announced that it would not approve an easement for DAPL under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, urging developers to find an alternative route. (See prior posting.)

Yesterday's Presidential Memorandum leaves some ambiguity regarding protection of tribal rights.  The Memorandum broadly calls for the Army to "review and approve in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, and with such conditions as are necessary or appropriate, requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas."  However it then appears to qualify this as to the Lake Oahe easement, instructing the Army to:
consider, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, whether to rescind or modify the memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works dated December 4, 2016 (Proposed Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing at Lake Oahe, North Dakota)....
The Guardian reports that supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux say they will fight the President's action.  Tribal chairman Dave Archambault said: "President Trump is legally required to honor our treaty rights and provide a fair and reasonable pipeline process."