Heinrich Blasts Dakota Access Pipeline Decision, Stands Up For Tribal Sovereignty And Treaty Rights

“The arbitrary and capricious decision to grant the easement now ignores the rights of tribal governments, circumvents legal requirements, and stifles the voices of millions of people who have expressed concerns over the process to date. Granting this easement without meaningful tribal consultation, nor proper review of environmental impacts, is unlawful and morally unacceptable.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) blasted the Trump Administration’s approval of a final easement to build the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and its failure to undertake meaningful consultation with Native American tribes.

In a letter to President Donald Trump, Heinrich and other members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Committee on Natural Resources said, “This blatant disregard for federal law and our country’s treaty and trust responsibilities to Native American tribes is unacceptable. We strongly oppose this decision and any efforts to undermine tribal rights. We urge you to immediately reverse this decision and follow the appropriate procedures required for tribal consultation, environmental law, and due process.”

On Wednesday, the Trump administration formally approved the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers granted the final easement needed for the pipeline to cross Lake Oahe, a section of the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. The decision circumvents appropriate consultation with Native American Tribes and the Army Corps’ environmental review process.

Last year, Heinrich called on President Obama to reroute the Dakota Access Pipeline, and voiced strong opposition to the escalation of violence against Native protestors in North Dakota. 

The pipeline is projected to carry 500,000 barrels of oil underneath the Missouri River per day. The oil crosses the river at Lake Oahe, just a half mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Lake Oahe and the Missouri provide drinking water for the tribe and the surrounding regions, as well as providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Significantly, the lake is also a sacred site for the Standing Rock Sioux, playing an important role in sacred ceremonies.

Signing the letter are Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-3), Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-08), Rep. A. Donald McEachin (VA-4) and Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-2).

The full text of the letter is here and below.

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC  20500

Dear President Trump:

As members of the United States Senate and House Natural Resources Committees, we write to express our deep concern regarding the announcement made today by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) that it intends to issue the final easement under Lake Oahe for the Dakota Access Pipeline. This decision was made without appropriate tribal consultation, a full environmental review, or sufficient due process. This blatant disregard for federal law and our country’s treaty and trust responsibilities to Native American tribes is unacceptable. We strongly oppose this decision and any efforts to undermine tribal rights.

A number of us have repeatedly expressed our concerns with the tribal consultation and permitting process and have called for meaningful consultation with tribes and a substantive review of the environmental and social impacts as well as potential alternatives. The arbitrary and capricious decision to grant the easement now ignores the rights of tribal governments, circumvents legal requirements, and stifles the voices of millions of people who have expressed concerns over the process to date. Granting this easement without meaningful tribal consultation, nor proper review of environmental impacts, is unlawful and morally unacceptable.

In addition, it has been the policy of the Corps to wait at least 14 days between notifying Congress of its intent to grant an easement of this nature, and actually doing so. This decision violates that policy and circumvents appropriate congressional review.

The United States has both a legal and moral responsibility to uphold its tribal treaty and trust responsibilities. This announcement demonstrates a total disregard for tribal rights, the rule of law, separation of powers, and transparency.

We urge you to immediately reverse this decision and follow the appropriate procedures required for tribal consultation, environmental law, and due process.

Thank you for your consideration,