Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Janet Alkire, the Chairwoman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, reacted today to the announcement made yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Court that it will not review a lower court ruling that an Environmental Impact Statement is required for the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).
“This is a victory for Standing Rock,” Alkire says. “The Supreme Court’s announcement demonstrates that we were correct all along. A thorough review of Dakota Access pipeline’s impact on public health and a detailed Environmental Impact Statement should have been prepared before Dakota Access pipeline went online.”
On January 26, 2021, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that an Environmental Impact Statement must be prepared for Dakota Access pipeline. Energy Transfer LLP, Dakota Access pipeline’s operator, appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday, the High Court denied review, effectively putting an end to the current litigation.
“The ball is now in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ court,” Alkire explains. “The Corps is obligated to prepare a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement detailing the true threat that Dakota Access pipeline poses to our land, our water and our people.”
According to Alkire, in preparing the Environmental Impact Statement, the Corps has not shown much interest in Standing Rock’s views of the pipeline’s environmental impacts. “Standing Rock is the community that will be most affected by an oil spill in the Missouri River, but the Corps has limited our input,” she says. “Important concerns of our tribe, such as Dakota Access pipeline’s inadequate emergency response plans, are being totally ignored by the Army Corps of Engineers.” According to Alkire, that puts tribal first responders at unnecessary risk.
For these reasons, on January 20, Standing Rock withdrew as a cooperating agency in the Corps’ process of developing the Environmental Impact Statement. “The Corps refuses to take our concerns seriously,” Alkire says.
Alkire — the first woman elected to lead the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in more than six decades — has scheduled a meeting on March 2 at Standing Rock with Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army, to discuss the tribe’s concerns with the Environmental Impact Statement process.
Doug Crow Ghost, administrator of Standing Rock’s Water Resources Department, continues to be concerned with the low water elevations of Lake Oahe and the impacts if an oil spill were to happen today. “The Corps’ water releases at Oahe Dam have lowered river levels at Standing Rock by 12 feet below normal,” Crow Ghost says. “This puts our communities at further risk.”
The Dakota Access pipeline passes directly underneath Lake Oahe, a reservoir directly adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's Reservation, which supplies most of the tribe’s fresh drinking water and serves as hunting and fishing grounds for many Standing Rock residents. “With water this low, Dakota Access pipeline should be shut down,” Crow Ghost says. “Today, our prayers for clean water have been heard. But the fight is not over.”
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