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Sioux tribe sues Army Corps over Bakken pipeline project

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, claiming a violation of the National Historic Preservation Act after the agency issued permits for a massive crude oil pipeline stretching from North Dakota to Illinois.

The complaint, filed in federal court in Washington D.C., by Earthjustice, says the Corps dismissed tribal concerns and ignored the pipeline’s impacts to sacred sites and culturally important landscapes.

The Dakota Access Pipeline project, also known as Bakken Oil Pipeline, would extend 1,168 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, crossing through communities, farms, tribal land, sensitive natural areas and wildlife habitat.

The pipeline would carry crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois where it will link with another pipeline that will transport the oil to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.

The pipeline would travel through the tribe’s ancestral lands and pass within a half mile of the reservation.

The permit allows for the digging of the pipeline under the Missouri River just upstream of the reservation and the tribe’s drinking water supply.

An oil spill at this site would threaten the tribe’s culture and way of life, the plaintiffs claim.

“The corps puts our water and the lives and livelihoods of many in jeopardy,” said Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, based in Fort Yates, North Dakota. “We have laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites. But the Army Corps has ignored all those laws and fast-tracked this massive project just to meet the pipeline’s aggressive construction schedule.”

“There have been shopping malls that have received more environmental review and Tribal consultation than this massive crude oil pipeline,” added Jan Hasselman, an Earthjustice attorney representing the tribe in the litigation. “Pipelines spill and leak — it’s not a matter of if, but when. Construction will destroy sacred and historically significant sites. We need to take a time out and ensure that the Corps follows the law before rushing ahead with permits.”

Despite objections by the Standing Rock Sioux and other organizations, construction of the pipeline has begun.

The Standing Rock Sioux have led a national campaign to draw attention to the pipeline.

The tribe has launched an international campaign, called Rezpect our Water, asking the Army Corps to deny the key permits for the pipeline.

In late July, tribal youth were running from North Dakota to Washington D.C., to deliver the 140,000 petition signatures to the Army Corps.