The League joined a letter lead by the Indigenous Environmental Network urging the President and Vice President to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) during its court-ordered environmental review period.
Dear President Biden and Vice President Harris,
Thank you for your administration’s early focus on climate change, tribal sovereignty, and racial justice and equity, including your decision to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. We are also grateful for your critical efforts to save lives and address the COVID-19 pandemic that is disproportionately impacting BIPOC communities across our country. As your Administration takes action to address the climate crisis and strengthen relationships with Indigenous communities, we respectfully urge you to reverse another harmful Trump Administration decision and immediately shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) during its court-ordered environmental review.
In 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe became the epicenter of a global climate justice movement to stop the illegal construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline had originally been slated to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, ND, yet the risk of an oil spill on the city’s 90% white inhabitants was deemed too great. The new crossing site shifted the risk to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in a location of key religious and cultural importance, including the burial grounds of their ancestors. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved several of the required permits without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement or adequately consulting with the Tribe.
After several months of peaceful demonstrations and the advocacy of tens of millions of Americans, President Obama listened to the demands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. He declined to issue the final pipeline permit. Then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced they would conduct a full environmental review, which would focus on the Tribe’s treaty rights. However, Trump stopped the review and fast tracked the pipeline hours after he took office, further violating tribal sovereignty.
During the next four years, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe, and Oglala Sioux Tribe continued their legal fight, making the case that the pipeline was illegal. In March 2020, the U.S. District Court ruled that the pipeline was operating without the proper permits and needed to have a full environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Court ordered the U.S. Army Corps to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. In July 2020, the Court ordered the pipeline be shut down. After an appeal, on January 27th, days after your Inauguration, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the pipeline is operating illegally and gave your Administration the authority to shut down the pipeline. The U.S. District Judge set a hearing on February 10th to discuss the final ruling and to ask your Administration whether you will shut down the pipeline or allow it to operate illegally without a permit.
We urge you to remedy this historic injustice and direct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately shut down the illegal Dakota Access Pipeline while the Environmental Impact Statement process is conducted, consistent with the D.C. District Court’s decision and order. Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps must ensure a robust environmental review with significant tribal consultation, tribal consent, and a thorough risk analysis.
With your leadership, we have a momentous opportunity to protect our water and respect our environmental laws and the rights of Indigenous people. This is our moment.
Mni Wiconi. Water is life.
For full list of signatories see attached letter