BISMARCK, ND — A judge has rejected the request by two American Indian tribes to be more involved in a court-ordered environmental review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg last June ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to further review the pipeline’s impact on tribal interests, though he allowed oil to begin flowing.
In December, he ordered Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners to produce an oil spill response plan for Lake Oahe, the Missouri River reservoir in the Dakotas from which the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux draw water. Boasberg also ordered a review by an independent engineering company on whether the pipeline complies with federal regulations.
The two tribes have said they were being left out of the process and they asked Boasberg to order that they be given more involvement. Corps and company attorneys accused the tribes of being difficult to work with.
Boasberg wrote in an order dated Monday that “the parties engage in a lengthy dispute over who is refusing to talk to whom.”
“The court does not believe that further inserting itself into the minutiae of this disagreement is either permissible or wise,” he wrote.
Boasberg also noted that ETP submitted the spill response plan and the independent review on April 2, making any request for additional tribal involvement in that work moot. The Standing Rock tribe has started raising money for its own spill response program.
As for the Corps’ additional review of the pipeline’s impact on tribal interests, Boasberg said the tribes can continue to press their argument that the study is flawed when that work is completed and presented to him.
The Corps had anticipated an April 2 completion date, but that has been delayed by what the agency maintains is difficulties obtaining needed information from the tribes.
Standing Rock attorney Jan Hasselman in a statement to The Associated Press said the Corps “is missing the opportunity to engage with the Standing Rock tribe meaningfully on its legitimate concerns about the safety of this pipeline, and continuing to accept without question Energy Transfer’s shoddy technical work.”
The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribes are leading the four-tribe lawsuit against the $3.8 billion pipeline that is moving oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. They fear environmental and cultural harm. ETP says the pipeline is safe.