House Democrats and tribal leaders are urging federal agencies to pull back permits they have already issued for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
During an event on the pipeline project on Thursday, Democrats said they were heartened by a promised Obama administration review of Dakota Access and a court order blocking its construction in North Dakota.But they said more needs to be done to stop the project, which local tribes warn threatens cultural and environmental sites in the region.
“We are calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the exiting permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline and initiate a transparent permitting process that includes, above all, public notice, public participation, formal and robust private consultation and adequate environmental review of the pipeline,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said.
Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) added: “We cannot allow this to be another example of a failed consultation and we need definitive decisions. We welcome the pause, but we need definitive decision.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has sued over the 1,170-mile, $3.8 billion project because it says it threatens cultural sites near its land in North Dakota and the tribe’s drinking water supply.
The pipeline’s developers say those fears are overblown and that it has taken pains to reroute the project around cultural sites and near existing pipelines to minimize pollution risk.
The Obama administration has launched a review of the project and it permitting, something Standing Rock hopes yields a decision against the pipeline.
“I don’t want this to just say, OK this is going to happen, no matter what, and the next pipeline we’ll make a change” to permitting procedures, Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault said Thursday.
“We have to make a change with this pipeline.”
Despite the Obama administration’s review, a federal judge this month approved of the Army Corps' permitting of the project. The oil industry and its allies are defending the pipeline, with the National Association of Manufacturers on Thursday launching a seven-figure ad buy supporting the project.
The administration is also planning a broader review of permitting for energy and construction projects near Native American land, which has raised tribes’ hopes about having a bigger say in future permitting measures.
“The United States, as a nation, owes a duty to us to protect our sacred waters from oil pollution,” said Harold Frazier, the chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
“The key to the trust relationship between the United States and the tribes is that, when it comes to federal actions that may endanger our resources and property, we need meaningful government-to-government consultation.”