Despite most of the arguments against it already having been debunked, the White House seems to have found a new political bone to chew when it comes to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAP). The parties involved with the project have been following all of the required processes to keep things moving forward, including addressing any concerns raised in court, but Uncle Sam is now stepping in and expanding the “questions” arising from protests by environmentalists and local tribe members to grind the process to a halt.
Some details from from Politico Morning Energy:
On Friday, three federal agencies announced they would hold a series of meetings on infrastructure permitting concerns with Native American tribes that will run through November. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said the announcement was a “good start but the government has a lot more to do” to protect the land impacted by the pipeline. But the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now Coalition said the initial consultation process was done properly and new outreach “should not impact, retroactively, any ongoing infrastructure project or any infrastructure project that is currently under review for permitting.” And Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, said the new consultation had been “selectively applied to advance a political agenda in the White House.”
As you may recall, US District Judge James Boasberg already gave this project a green light. At the time he noted that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe hadn’t raised any objections when they were first presented with the opportunity to participate in the planning. After that they repeatedly failed to show up for hearings or respond to requests for comment or input on the pipeline route. The entire time they’ve been fighting this battle in the media rather than trying to deal with the company and the courts.
Another of their arguments took a hit this week when it was found that claims about damage to cultural artifacts were not supported by inspections. (Say Anything)
Keep in mind that the pipeline route had already been reviewed for archaeological/cultural impacts before being approved. Also Obama-appointed federal Judge James Boasberg found, in rejecting a both a restraining order and a request from an injunction from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, no evidence that the pipeline company had destroyed artifacts or in any way violated the law.
Boasberg did find a near total lack of cooperation from the tribe when it came to working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on identifying culturally significant areas. “Suffice it to say that the Tribe largely refused to engage in consultations,” he wrote.
Also worth mentioning is that, in this area where Standing Rock claims artifacts were destroyed, the Dakota Access Pipeline is being buried alongside existing infrastructure such as the Northern Border gas pipeline and power lines, the construction of which also required cultural/archaeological reviews. This is significant, because the tribe is claiming that there are archaeological artifacts in an area that has already been dug up for previous projects.
When the project was initially approved and set in motion, the Standing Rock tribe raised no objections. Since it turned into a political football, both the developers and the courts have bent over backward to try to accommodate them and investigate every claim brought forward. Still, no evidence of damage to sacred grounds or cultural artifacts has been identified and the route follows the same path as existing pipeline work and power lines where construction has been safely completed in the past.
What exactly are we arguing about here again? And why is the White House shutting this down aside from a desire to please environmentalists in an election year?