Federal Agencies Step in After Judge Denies Tribe's Request to Stop Dakota Access Pipeline
By Larry Buhl and Steve Horn
Friday afternoon brought a roller coaster of emotions for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and supporters in the battle to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) near the tribe's North Dakota reservation. Shortly after a federal judge rejected the tribe's emergency legal challenge, a joint statement by three federal agencies effectively stopped work on the pipeline until significant questions are answered about potential environmental and cultural impacts.
Multi-tribal gathering of demonstrators on the Missouri River to show solidarity against the Dakota Access Pipeline.Sacred Stone Camp
In August the tribe filed suit to challenge the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant permits to DAPL at more than 200 water crossings for the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline project. The Sioux argued that the project violates several federal environmental laws and would threaten water supplies for millions of people who rely on the Missouri River for drinking water.
The Dakota Access pipeline would snake beneath the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, carrying 450,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois. Construction has already damaged sites of significant cultural significance to the Standing Rock Sioux, and continues to threaten further sites.
Snatching Victory From the Jaws of Defeat
Minutes after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a 58-page ruling Friday denying the tribe's request for a temporary injunction to halt construction, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior issued a joint statement to "cease to authorize construction" on federally controlled lands—essentially nullifying the court's action.
Citing concerns raised by the Standing Rock Sioux lawsuit, the joint statement reads:
"The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws. Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time. The Army will move expeditiously to make this determination, as everyone involved — including the pipeline company and its workers — deserves a clear and timely resolution. In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe."
The statement also invited Native American tribes to continue ongoing talks about their concerns regarding pipelines and similar infrastructure projects.
Breaking News: U.S. paused construction on part of a North Dakota pipeline that inspired protests https://t.co/cxj0k4pnsz— The New York Times (@The New York Times)1473452527.0
What Happens Next is Unclear
The Corps of Engineers can block construction on its land, which does stop the contested Missouri River crossing, at least for now.
But the federal government can't stop Energy Transfer from proceeding to construct the Dakota Access pipeline on private land, which is why it asked DAPL to voluntarily halt construction there.
It is not certain that the company will voluntarily agree to stop construction in the 20-mile zone on either side of Lake Oahe. If it continues, some Native American cultural and archaeological sites could still face the risk of damage or destruction.
Dakota Access LLC's parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, has not responded to repeated requests for comment from DeSmog. The Departments of Justice and Interior said they would not comment beyond what was written in the joint press release.
For now the tribe and their supporters are treating the joint agency statement as a victory.
"Our voices have been heard," said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II, in a statement. "The Obama administration has asked tribes to the table to make sure that we have meaningful consultation on infrastructure projects. Native peoples have suffered generations of broken promises and today the federal government said that national reform is needed to better ensure that tribes have a voice on infrastructure projects like this pipeline."
Craig Stevens, spokesman for the industry-friendly Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now (MAIN) said the group was disappointed with Friday's decision.
"Had the decision been different, it most certainly would have had a chilling effect on domestic infrastructure development and the U.S. economy as no sane American company would dare invest the time and resources necessary for proper consultations and approvals only to have its project shuttered halfway through," Stevens wrote.
Not everyone who opposes the pipeline is optimistic. Robin Martinez, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild in Kansas City, told DeSmog he has mixed feelings about the implications of the joint statement.
On one hand, he said that it "not only appears to open review of the Dakota Access permits, but the underlying decision-making process when it comes to pipelines" and that "it presents an opportunity to help shape the direction of the pipeline permitting process and actually take a hard look at the environmental impacts as required under the National Environmental Policy Act."
Martinez was doubtful, though, that Dakota Access would stop bulldozing contested private land.
"Hopefully they'll do the right thing and stand down, but given what appears to be their deliberate destruction of Native American historic sites last weekend, I wouldn't count on it," he said.
Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, had this to say in response to Friday announcements:
"North Dakota's Governor Dalrymple and President Obama could defuse and demilitarize this, while the peaceful gathering to protect the water continues. We ask for a moral high ground, by elected officials while we continue to support the Standing Rock tribe and Lakota people to seek justice. There should be no further destruction or construction. We are asking Enbridge and Energy Partners to stop construction and respect our people."
Demonstrations to Continue
Conflict over the pipeline reached a wider national audience last weekend after video surfaced showing pipeline security workers using attack dogs and pepper spray on demonstrators.
Support and protesters have continued to flow into the Sacred Stone camp near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Currently there are more than 100 Native American Tribes represented at the camp.
The #DAPL fight is not over: Nationwide actions to stop the Dakota Access pipeline on 9/13. Find 1 near you: https://t.co/uZYLngUurS #NoDAPL— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1473473854.0
North Dakota authorities announced a mobilization of law enforcement at the protest site and National Guard members were dispatched to work security at traffic checkpoints. As of early Friday evening, no incidents had been reported at the camps, in the pipeline construction zone, or in the dozen cities around the country where protests against DAPL are taking place.
On Friday afternoon, more than six dozen youth led a run for peace to the North Dakota State Capitol in Bismarck, calling attention to their petition to stop DAPL. It was the fourth run for this youth group, who recently ran from North Dakota to Washington, DC to deliver 252,000 petition signatures.
In Des Moines, Iowa, a nonviolent civil disobedience event is scheduled for Saturday to protest the use of eminent domain to seize land for DAPL construction in that state.
On Tuesday, thousands of people will rally during the #NoDAPL Day of Action in Washington, DC and dozens of cities across the country to demand that President Obama stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Sen. Bernie Sanders will speak alongside Tara Houska and other tribal leaders at the DC event.
"This struggle to protect the land and water, goes hand-in-hand with the struggle to defend our Rights as Indigenous Peoples," said Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network. "We ask our relatives and allies to join us in solidarity to defeat the Dakota Access pipeline."
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
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