By BLAKE NICHOLSON
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) ~ One of the four American Indian tribes still fighting the Dakota Access oil pipeline in court says it’s being left out of the process as federal officials work to comply with a judge’s order to determine the pipeline’s impact on tribal interests.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “has been almost completely non-responsive to requests from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe” for more information and for direct consultation, according to tribal attorney Nicole Ducheneaux.
“The tribe has been excluded from the (process) and has been denied the opportunity to provide meaningful information,” she wrote in court documents this week asking U.S. District Judge James Boasberg to force the Corps “to engage in meaningful consultation” with the tribe.
Boasberg ruled last June that the Corps largely complied with federal environmental law in permitting the $3.8 billion pipeline to move North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois. However, he ordered the Corps to do more study on some issues, including how an oil spill under Lake Oahe might impact tribal interests since the Missouri River reservoir provides water for the Dakotas tribes.
The Corps in a Feb. 1 status report filed with the court details difficulties in obtaining the “substantive information” it needs from the tribes. Letters from the tribes “generally concern the scope, timing and format of the Corps’ prior information requests instead of responding with the actual information requested,” Justice Department attorney Matthew Marinelli wrote.
Ducheneaux took issue with that and called the Corps’ interactions with the tribe “unprofessional” and “disrespectful.”
The Cheyenne River Sioux isn’t the only tribe to complain about its dealings with the Corps. The Yankton Sioux Tribe in court documents filed in December said it twice received letters from the Corps requesting information from the Oglala Sioux Tribe. The Corps responded that the letters were correctly addressed to the Yankton Sioux but that the body of each letter mistakenly referenced the Oglala Sioux, “a typographical error.”
Despite the issues, the Corps still expects to finish its work by early April, a timeline it first established last fall, according to Marinelli.
The pipeline built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners began operating last June. Boasberg is allowing oil to continue flowing while the Corps completes the additional study, though he did order the company and agency to complete an oil spill response plan for Lake Oahe.
Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake