The Yankton Sioux Tribe and its water protectors stood victorious on Monday, July 6, following a decision from Judge James E. Boasberg, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, upholding the Tribe’s long-held position that the unlawfully permitted Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) must be drained of all oil and the easement vacated due to the Corps’ disregard for United States treaty and trust obligations and other errors during its review of the project. Earlier this year, Judge Boasberg partially granted the Tribe’s and Tribal Chairman Robert Flying Hawk’s motion for summary judgment, ordering the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to prepare a full environmental impact statement (EIS) for DAPL in Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al.
“Today’s decision makes clear that Dakota Access cannot operate an oil pipeline that has not undergone proper environmental review including impacts on the Tribe, its waters, and resources,” said Jennifer Baker, an attorney with Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP. She continued, “The Court ordered that the company must shut down the pipeline and empty it of oil by August 5, 2020.”
The Yankton Sioux Tribe stands shoulder-to-shoulder alongside its Dakota and Lakota relatives, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, to defend and protect the treaty rights, historical and current subsistence land uses, and cultural and spiritual connections with the land that the Corps and Dakota Access imperiled by approving, constructing, and operating the crude oil pipeline, which carves through the tribes’ 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty territory.
The Yankton Sioux Tribe first asserted its opposition to DAPL and its position that an EIS was required in 2014, when it challenged Dakota Access’ application for a permit from the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. The Tribe initiated this federal action against the Corps in September 2016, arguing that the Corps wrongfully concluded that an EIS was not necessary to fulfill its duties under the National Environmental Policy Act. In its March 2020 ruling, the District Court agreed, remanding the matter back to the Corps and ordering the Corps to prepare a full EIS. Today’s decision grants a meaningful remedy requested by the Tribal Nations and takes an important step towards ensuring federal action protects human life, the land, and water.
“I would like to recognize our water protectors that stood watch at the camp on the banks of the Missouri River with water protectors from many other tribal nations. Their sacrifice, hard work, and prayers paved the way for today’s decision,” stated Yankton Sioux Tribe Vice-Chairman Jason Cooke.
The Yankton Sioux Tribe is represented by Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP, a majority native-owned law firm that maintains offices in Louisville, Colorado and Washington, D.C. We are dedicated to the representation of American Indian tribes, tribal entities, and individual Indians across the United States. To learn more, visit www.nativelawgroup.com.