DAPL News

In case you haven’t yet heard, yesterday an appellate court dropped a big decision in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit to stop the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). Unfortunately, the court’s ruling did not support immediately shutting down oil flow as we hoped. However, the court also failed to reverse the lower court’s decision to vacate DAPL’s permit to pass under Lake Oahe, Standing Rock’s primary source of drinking water. DAPL’s continued operation is now officially as illegal as it is dangerous.

Lakota Law
Press play to watch my video breakdown of the court’s decision.

You likely recall that, a month ago, D.C. Circuit Court Judge James Boasberg set a 30-day deadline for Energy Transfer to stop pumping oil through DAPL. Yesterday’s appellate court decision is complex, but it essentially delays that deadline while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decides whether to stop the oil given the absence of a permit. The Corps can demand Energy Transfer comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, shut down the oil, and perform a full Environmental Impact Study.

If that doesn’t happen, we’ll see more arguments before Judge Boasberg. Bottom line, this fight now looks likely to stretch into 2021, when a new administration could revoke DAPL’s permits for good. I urge you to watch my video breakdown, stay tuned for more updates, and keep a positive outlook.

The struggle continues, but hope is on the horizon. We remain optimistic, and we must keep fighting with all our collective strength. We won’t stop until this pipeline is emptied and dug out of our sacred ground. I look forward to the day we can gather together at Standing Rock again — this time to celebrate the end of DAPL, once and for all.
Wopila tanka — my eternal appreciation for standing with Standing Rock!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project

DAPL’s deficient leak detection system

It appears that we’re in for a long, hot summer. People are rising up. Colonizer statues and racist mascots are coming down. And finally, winds of change are making their way to the D.C. courts. As you know, a federal judge ordered the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) shut down by Aug. 5, pending environmental review.

Unfortunately, a D.C. court of appeals has granted DAPL operators short term, temporary relief on that order, extending the deadline for the pipeline to be emptied. The verdict, though, maintains the authority to halt operations at any time. In the interim, we’re releasing footage from our Chase Iron Eyes trial archive to illustrate what makes DAPL so dangerous in the first place and why we must keep pushing for it to be shut down for good. You can take a look at our new video about DAPL’s deficient leak detection system, and we hope you will watch and share it with your networks.

Lakota LawEnergy expert Steve Martin of the Chippewa Nation and attorney Peter Capossela explain the constant risks posed by Dakota Access.

Getting down to brass tacks, DAPL’s leak detection system is criminally inadequate. Actually, at the most critical area of stress for the existing pipeline, there isn’t even a detection apparatus in place. So, if and when DAPL springs a leak, oil could seep into the groundwater and rise to the surface before pipeline officials or local residents have any idea something is wrong.

A leak of this type could take place over the course of months, contaminating the water used to grow food and raise children on the nearby Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

As Indigenous energy executive Steve Martin points out in our video, it’s outrageous that water — the source of all life — isn’t regarded as more sacred. Why do we allow these dangerous pipelines to jeopardize our children’s future? Why is the money made from a barrel of oil more important than my community’s right to clean water and safe food? Not to mention the impacts on climate.

If you’d like to explore the issue further, we’ve also written an in-depth blog on the topic of DAPL’s leak detection system.

We’re in the midst of a great shift. While it didn’t begin with NoDAPL, I know from living at Oceti Sakowin camp for eight months — through police raids, surveillance, and blizzards — that embers from our sacred fires continue to find their way into the current moment. Let’s keep Trump and his oil cronies on the run. Hold the faith. Even bigger change is coming.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for standing with us to protect our water, our land, and our families!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

News from Lakota People´s Law Project

I thank you for always standing with the Lakota people. Your attention to the work my father, Chase Iron Eyes, does on behalf of our tribal nations means more than I can say. Recently, I joined my dad, my auntie Madonna Thunder Hawk, and Lakota Law’s chief counsel Daniel Sheehan for an amazing Zoom session with The Nation Magazine. We’ve produced a short video with key outtakes. Please take a look!

Lakota Law

Our friendship with The Nation has translated not only to excellent press coverage and great online events like this Zoom conference, but, in addition, the magazine has become sort of a sponsor for Lakota Law’s Native-run foster home on Standing Rock Nation. The home currently houses five children in need and has already provided shelter and safety for many more since the beginning of the year. Now that summer has arrived, the team has been busy devising ways to get the kids out into nature where they can be active and engaged while remaining safe during the pandemic.

I count myself fortunate not to rely on such assistance, and we must continue to work together on making sure all our vulnerable populations stay out of harm’s way. Much of our video focuses on our two recent wins against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, wonderful for our frontline communities at Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, and here at Pine Ridge. Those victories show me that what we do together works. But as Auntie Madonna says, we also know these battles are ongoing.

To her point, on Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an administrative stay temporarily preventing the DAPL shutdown from taking effect. So the oil will keep flowing after all — for the moment — and Standing Rock has until Monday to file new briefs.

We have to stay strong, and we mustn’t get complacent. Just last week, we got two pieces of great news. Now, we see again how hard it is to win this fight. That’s why we need to continue to stand together — across generational, racial, and all artificially constructed boundaries — and, if we do, I have faith that there’s no limit to what we can accomplish.

Wopila tanka — my gratitude for your attention and care!

Tokata Iron Eyes
Via the Lakota People’s Law Project

Lakota People's Law Project

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

DAPL parent company vows to defy court order

DAPL parent company vows to defy court order
Thu, Jul 9, 2020 3:20 pm
Madonna Thunder Hawk, Lakota Law (info@lakotalaw.org)To:you Details

Inconceivable! Energy Transfer Partners (ETP)—the parent company to the Dakota Access Pipeline—just announced that they will ignore Judge James Boasberg’s order to shut down oil flow through the pipeline by August 5th. An ETP spokesperson said in a statement yesterday: “We are not shutting down the line. We believe Judge Boasberg has exceeded his authority and does not have jurisdiction to shut down the pipeline.” Outrageous!

Will you stand with us against Big Oil’s lawlessness by making a donation today?

Perhaps they’re taking their inspiration from the father of the Trail of Tears, Andrew Jackson. In response to the 1832 Supreme Court decision that established tribal sovereignty in the U.S. — Worcester vs. Georgia — President Jackson declared: “[Chief Justice] John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.”

But this is not 1832. And no matter how much Trump may want to do his best Andrew Jackson impersonation, we will not let him. We will not let this corporation, this pipeline, or this President trample on our sovereignty. It’s time to keep Indigenous voices as strong as possible in our collective defense of Mother Earth.

Standing Rock Protest Video

In 2016-17, more than ten thousand people of conscience traveled to Standing Rock to exercise grassroots power over commercial disregard for basic rights. We will stand again like this if we have to. And the Lakota Law legal team will explore options for submitting more amicus briefs to support Standing Rock and EarthJustice in court. One way or another, we won’t permit ETP to unilaterally disregard judicial decisions designed to protect Native health and sovereignty on treaty land. We will go toe to toe with Big Oil, and this time we will have the Constitution — not just Natural Law — clearly behind us.

Wopila — I thank you for your solidarity!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

P.S. You can ensure that our response to  this imminent threat from Energy Transfer Partners and the Trump administration is strong. Please give today so we can do the legal work and grassroots organizing needed to help our movement win!

Lakota People’s Law Project
547 South 7th Street #149
Bismarck, ND 58504-5859

The Lakota People’s Law Project is part of the Romero Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) law and policy center. All donations are tax-deductible.

July is the Month of Good News!

It’s time to celebrate for a second day in a row, because we have amazing news from the U.S. Supreme Court. Yesterday late in the day, SCOTUS announced its ruling effectively halting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL)! Based on the Endangered Species Act, the Supremes upheld a lower court ruling preventing the pipeline from crossing domestic waterways. This is on top of Monday’s court decision to shut down oil flow through DAPL, making yesterday a truly good day for the environment and Indigenous sovereignty.

Lakota Law

Let’s be clear: TC Energy, the pipeline’s operator, is not going to take this lying down. This is not KXL’s death-knell. So, we need to remain vigilant. For now, the Supreme Court has simply let stand U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris’ injunction against construction while the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the pipeline company’s appeal.

It’s likely there will be further legal wrangling and attempts by TC Energy to circumvent proper environmental review. We can expect the same from the Trump administration, should Trump be re-elected in November. On the other hand, Joe Biden has publicly pledged that his administration will cancel KXL, should he win the presidency.

For now, we can be thankful. Construction of KXL will remain stopped — a win for Unci Maka, our Grandmother Earth, and for our Lakota families here on the front line. We can be grateful that our people will retain access to clean water and a measure of safety from man camps, which might otherwise have spread COVID-19 and contributed to our epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

I thank you for standing with us against KXL so far. We’ll keep you informed of all developments going forward — and I hope I can count on you to stay with us, come rain or shine.

Wopila tanka — My sincere gratitude for your spirit and resolve!

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
Via The Lakota People’s Law Project

More Good News!

I have great news: this morning, District Court Judge James Boasberg ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) to be shut down within 30 days! In this momentous ruling, Judge Boasberg found that the Army Corps of Engineers failed to fully consider the environmental impacts of Energy Transfer’s crude oil pipeline, and that there were too many safety concerns to allow its continued operation. While this order only shuts DAPL down for 13 months while the Army Corps completes additional environmental assessments and safety planning, there is a good chance that when the oil is drained in 30 days, that oil will never flow again!

Lakota LawShares in DAPL’s parent company—Energy Transfer Partners—dropped 7% today.

We commend the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and their legal team at EarthJustice for years of dedication and persistence in this struggle to defang the Black Snake. And we are proud of the amicus brief that our legal team submitted in the lead up to this decision. We’re also elated that Judge Boasberg cited many of the questions we and our allies have raised since the beginning of the NoDAPL struggle. First, that it’s simply wrong to conduct an environmental assessment of a pipeline after it’s already been built. Second, that DAPL’s leak detection abilities are so poor it could be leaking more than 6,000 barrels of oil every day without detection, and Energy Transfer’s abysmal pipeline safety record raises that risk even further. Third, that there is no proper cleanup plan for a wintertime spill, when freezing Dakota winters make response the most difficult. Boasberg even went one step further, concluding that the drop in oil demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic makes shutting down the pipeline now less harmful to North Dakota’s economy.

So what comes next? First, Energy Transfer has to drain and shut down DAPL by August 6th. The Army Corps of Engineers then has 13 months to further study potential pipeline leaks and the dangers they pose. This ruling could still be appealed in the Federal District Court of D.C., but our analysis tells us that such an appeal is unlikely to succeed.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your tireless support, and for staying with us throughout this journey.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for standing with us to protect our water, our land, and our families!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

P.S. This has truly been a week of good news: just yesterday the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, slated to run from West Virginia to North Carolina, was canceled. In a joint statement, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy cited ongoing delays, expected cost increases, and legal challenges from environmental and other groups as threats to the project’s viability. The trend away from fossil fuels is becoming stronger with each passing day, thanks to your activism and the support of so many others like you.

 

More about this:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2020
CONTACT:
Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association
NCAI Press
Mauda Moran
Great Plains Tribes Win Important Legal Fight to Protect Tribal Water and Treaty Resources
The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association (GPTCA), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and the National Congress of American Indians Fund (NCAI Fund) applaud the D.C. District Court’s decision today to vacate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lake Oahe easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline, and to require the removal of all oil flowing through the pipeline by August 5, 2020. This decision ensures that the treaty-reserved rights of the plaintiff tribes – the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, and the Oglala Sioux Tribe – are adequately addressed, along with any other land and natural resource considerations, in a full-fledged and well-documented environmental review process.
GPTCA, NARF, and NCAI Fund participated in a coalition of Native organizations submitting an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff tribes during the latest proceedings in the D.C. District Court and are encouraged by this outcome. We hope that this decision helps pave the way for full and proper environmental impact studies as well as meaningful consultation with tribal nations that have direct or indirect stewardship over the lands under review. Our organizations will continue to work to ensure that every time tribal lands and resources are at stake, the environmental review processes meet all legal standards and respect the federal government’s trust obligations to tribes set forth in federal laws.
###
About the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association:
Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association is made up of the 16 Tribal Chairmen, Presidents, and Chairpersons in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Their purpose is to provide a forum for sharing information on matters of interest to its member Tribes, develop consensus on matters of mutual importance, assist member Tribes in their governmental and programmatic development consistent with their goals for self-determination, and self-sufficiency and provide for effective public relations and education program with non-Indian communities. For more information, please visit http://gptca.net/index.html
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.
About the Native American Rights Fund:
Founded in 1970, NARF is the oldest and largest non-profit dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and individual Indians nationwide. For the past 50 years, NARF has represented over 275 Tribes in 31 states in such areas as tribal jurisdiction, federal recognition, land claims, hunting and fishing rights, religious liberties, and voting rights. For more information, visit www.narf.org.

 

A State of Emergency

We’re in a state of emergency. For months, the Trump administration withheld our COVID relief funding, and now they’re threatening to replace tribal police with federal cops at Cheyenne River, forcing a lawsuit from the tribe. To add insult to injury, the president will descend upon our homelands this Friday, under the guise of celebrating freedom and independence at Mount Rushmore.

We need your help. Please tell the Department of the Treasury and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to respect tribal health, safety, and sovereignty. COVID relief funds must be sent to tribes on schedule, checkpoints protecting our reservations must remain in place, and uninvited BIA police — and Trump — have no business in our territory.

Lakota Law
In our new video, South Dakota State Senator Red Dawn Foster joins me to talk about our showdowns with the Trump administration.

As you know, even when the virus hit South Dakota hard, Governor Kristi Noem failed to institute common sense protective policies. Then she challenged our tribes over the checkpoints, eventually calling on her friend, Donald Trump, for help. That help is arriving.

The Treasury Department has already bullied tribal nations by failing to disburse our CARES Act funds on time. Now, with the pandemic exploding across the Midwest, infecting around 100 people at Pine Ridge, and devastating the Navajo Nation, administration officials are threatening to withdraw our funding for law enforcement and replace our police force with feds if we don’t remove the checkpoints.

And this week, as we close in on Independence Day, President Trump plans to further desecrate our sacred Black Hills with a dangerous fireworks display, literally illuminating Mount Rushmore — the boldest monument there is to Native subjugation. What about our independence? What about our sovereignty? What about our right to live without tyranny in this “land of the free?”

Governor Noem even went out of her way to say there will be no requirements for masks or social distancing at the event, further jeopardizing South Dakota’s 72,000 Native Americans. So I promise you, we will remain vigilant here on the front lines. We will not remove our checkpoints. We will not stand aside or stand down. Will you stand with us?

Wopila tanka — Our sincere thanks for your friendship and your support,

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
Via The Lakota People’s Law Project

P.S. Nothing is more important than protecting human lives. Please help by emailing the Treasury Department and the BIA: tell them, right now, to stop undermining our health, safety, and sovereignty. Thank you!

Pipeline Decision

In Lakota Country, and especially here in the Cheyenne River Oyate, we’re now bracing for the worst, because the Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to lift permit restrictions on the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline.

An April decision by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Montana invoked the Endangered Species Act to limit KXL crossing domestic waterways. That ruling, thankfully, put the pipeline behind schedule and kept my people safer during the COVID-19 pandemic, but everything could change as soon as next week.

Lakota Law
Photo credit: Julia Peter

Despite recent, somewhat surprising decisions upholding rights for the LGTBQ and immigrant communities, the Court can’t be relied upon to continue ruling in favor of the people — or the environment — with its current conservative majority.

We expect a ruling from SCOTUS before it leaves session — at the latest, in early July. Justice Elena Kagan, who oversees the 9th District, set today as the deadline for submission of all legal arguments. Without her diligent oversight, the Court might already have given the green light. Now, the environmental groups who brought the suit at least have a fighting chance.

But the reality is, we can’t bank on a third pleasant surprise. As I wrote to you earlier this week, oil companies are adept at finding every end-run available to circumvent proper pipeline procedures. That includes tapping their friends in the Trump administration and Bill Barr’s Department of Justice to try calling in last-ditch favors from the highest court in the land.

As you probably remember, KXL will bring two-man camps — temporary housing for oil workers — near to our reservation borders. These destructive dens of machismo endanger our families by exacerbating the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. In the age of the coronavirus, contact with pipeline workers could bring even more peril, a key reason why we set up health and safety checkpoints on roads entering our reservations.

So, we prepare again to fight. We’ll maintain our checkpoints at all costs. And, of course, we’ll keep engaging allies from other environmental groups and tribal nations (for instance, we’re already working with a Blackfoot activist in Montana to survey ongoing construction near the Canadian border). We remain vigilant, and I ask that you stay ready to assist us in the likely event that SCOTUS reverts to its troubling pattern of enabling this corrupt, racist White House.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for standing with us to protect our water, our land, and our families!

Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

Black Lives Matter

I trust that, as a supporter of Lakota sovereignty, you believe in justice and equity for all people. So I hope you’ll join me in standing with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. My experience as a lifelong activist gives me insight into what a moment that shifts society looks like. It can look messy, it can look dangerous — it can look just like this.

Lakota Law
Lisa Skye and I stand with BLM at the Cheyenne River Reservation border. Photo courtesy of Warrior Women Project. Please click the play button above to watch this video message from me.

As you are no doubt aware, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police on a Minneapolis street, our nation is on fire. This follows the recent murders of Breonna Taylor by police in her home and Ahmaud Arbery by white vigilantes on a Georgia street.

Now, every day and every night, thousands march and kneel and vocalize to end police brutality and demand a new respect for Black bodies, lives, and communities. A few days back, Lakota Law’s Chase Iron Eyes and his daughter, Tokata, helped lead one such protest in Rapid City.

As a nation, many of us are listening to, and gaining further understanding of, the pain suffered by communities of color for centuries in this land. With that understanding, hopefully we will feel compelled to offer support and advocacy in whatever ways are most appropriate or asked of us. Whatever lane each of us occupies, we can find our role in the struggle.

I and many people of the Oceti Sakowin and other Indigenous nations can empathize with the pain wrought by institutional racism. Seeing the young people of today demonstrating and standing up for what is right takes me back to my own youthful days organizing for Red Power — once upon a time, right there in that same place, the Twin Cities. It reminds me of our American Indian Movement, born from Lakota, Dakota, and Ojibwe activism in that northern midwest metropolis.

And, of course, it reminds me of the #NoDAPL protests at Standing Rock. Anyone surprised to see the president unleash militarized police, security forces, and tear gas on peaceful protesters wasn’t paying attention in 2016 and ‘17. For decades, from Sitting Bull to MLK, from the American Indian Movement to Black Lives Matter, Black and Brown communities have taken turns leading the movement for understanding, equality, and justice.

The struggle is now being live-streamed, and it’s not easy to watch. We know that a few irresponsible people on our side and, more often, counter-protesters with hate-filled hearts are infiltrating, looting, and trying to paint legitimate civil disobedience with the brush of violence. But we know the difference. We know that we are not terrorists, and neither is anyone who truly seeks justice and calls out tyranny.

The world is changing, and it’s long overdue. I hardly need to remind you that Black and Native people die at the hands of police and are incarcerated at far higher rates than white folks. So yes, I empathize. And I offer you my deep gratitude for your compassion. Thank you for standing with us through our struggle. I hope we can all say we also stand arm-in-arm with Takomni Hesapa Wiconi Heĉha — #BlackLivesMatter.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for your friendship and your support,

In solidarity, always,
Madonna Thunder Hawk
Cheyenne River Organizer
The Lakota People’s Law Project

New Information:Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL).

Lakota Law

 

You may recall that, in late March, the Standing Rock, Oglala, Yankton, and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes won a key round in their legal battle against the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). In a reversal of his prior decision, D.C. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled that the pipeline hadn’t undergone proper environmental review. Though logic would dictate a subsequent cease to DAPL’s operations, Boasberg hasn’t taken that step. That’s why, last week, the Lakota Law team joined an Earthjustice-led effort and submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the judge, a strong legal argument that the oil flow must stop immediately.

Lakota Law
For a comprehensive picture of the history of DAPL and current legal landscape, check out our in-depth blog, which also features our television ad targeted to the D.C. market in 2017 arguing for a full Environmental Impact Statement.

It’s not complicated. Because Boasberg’s latest decision voids the easement granted for DAPL, it should no longer be permitted to carry oil, at least until we’ve seen an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act. We’ve been arguing for a proper EIS since the beginning, recognizing that — given the oil company’s horrendous safety track record — it may be impossible to produce.

As you know, the Obama administration agreed that a comprehensive review was needed in late 2016, shutting down construction as thousands cheered at Standing Rock during the #NoDAPL protests. Sadly, everything changed when Trump took office. One of his first executive orders fast-tracked the pipeline without the EIS. Then, when Standing Rock took legal action, Judge Boasberg cited an exception in the law allowing construction despite known, potential hazards.

Boasberg’s latest ruling has changed the game again, this time in our favor. In our brief, LPLP Chief counsel Daniel Sheehan argues that if the oil flow doesn’t stop now, the Court will send a perilous message that litigation against the government is “meaningless and tantamount to a bait and switch designed to fool those naïve enough to believe that the rule of law still has efficacy.”

We’re not alone. Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee have also joined U.S. senators including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren to submit a powerful amicus brief. Their legal argument was prepared by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, both of whom met face-to-face with our team in recent months.

We are aligned with powerful people, and the support you have shown to the Lakota means we can keep fighting nonstop to cancel pipelines and forward justice. The tide may be turning. I hope that if you stay with us, we can bring additional legal victories — and safety — back to our homelands.

Wopila tanka — Thank you for your friendship and your support,

Chase Iron Eyes
Lead Counsel
The Lakota People’s Law Project