The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation have stepped into the public fray over the $3.78 billion, 1,172-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline that conglomerate Energy Transfer wants to run through four states.
The agencies each weighed in during March and early April with separate letters exhorting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is about to make a decision about the pipeline, to conduct a formal Environmental Impact Assessment and issue an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Each of them cited potential effects on and lack of consultation with tribes, most notably the Standing Rock Sioux.
“We are so thankful that the EPA, DOI, and the Advisory Council are requesting a full EIS on the Dakota Access Pipeline and are hoping that the Army Corp of Engineers listen to the request of these agencies and to the Native communities who will be affected by this pipeline,” said LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a landowner who is also with the Standing Rock Tribal Historic Preservation Office, in a statement from the Indigenous Environmental Network.
Noting that drinking water intake for the water system serving Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Reservation was a mere 10 miles from where the Missouri River crosses Lake Oahe, the EPA recommended that the Corps’ draft Environmental Assessment “be revised to assess potential impacts to drinking water and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,” the EPA said in its letter. “Based on our improved understanding of the project setting, we also recommend addressing additional concerns regarding environmental justice and emergency response actions to spills/leaks.”
The EPA recommended that the Army Corps revise its Environmental Assessment and open up a second public comment period.
The Interior Department expressed similar concerns in its letter.
“The routing of a 12- to 30-inch crude oil pipeline in close proximity to and upstream of the Reservation is of serious concern to the Department,” the DOI said in its letter. “When establishing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's permanent homeland, the U.S. reserved waters of sufficient quantity and quality to serve the purposes of the Reservation. The Department holds more than 800,000 acres of land in trust for the Tribe that could be impacted by a leak or spill. Further, a spill could impact the waters that the Tribe and individual tribal members residing in that area rely upon for drinking and other purposes. We believe that, if the pipeline's current route along the edge of the Reservation remains an option, the potential impact on trust resources in this particular situation necessitates full analysis and disclosure of potential impacts through the preparation of an [Environmental Impact Statement].”
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation was “perplexed by the Corps’ apparent difficulties in consulting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,” the ACHP said in its letter to the Army Corps, listing numerous attempts at communication and consultation by the Standing Rock Sioux’s tribal historic preservation officer (THPO) about everything from water concerns to the pipeline’s potential proximity to burial sites.
“It is troubling to note that the THPO’s letters indicate the Corps took more than seven months to address the tribe’s specific concerns,” the ACHP said.
“It is impressive to see these federal agencies stand up in support of the Standing Rock Lakota Nation and acknowledge tribe’s right to be consulted on any extractive development that impacts lands, water, and peoples within their territory,” said Dallas Goldtooth, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “And although a full EIS is a welcome step to hold Dakota Access accountable, the only way we can truly protect the land and water is by rejecting such dirty oil projects, enacting just transition policy towards renewable energy, and keeping fossil fuels in the ground.”