Feb. 8 (UPI) — A Sioux tribe in the United States said it would take legal action against the Trump administration for signing off on the Dakota Access pipeline.
President Donald Trump‘s administration gave final approval to finish the last stretch of the oil pipeline in North Dakota beneath Lake Oahe, a federally owned body of water. That section is the last major hurdle standing in the way of the line’s completion and the center of the debate over the controversial artery.
In a court filing late Tuesday, the Army Corps of Engineers said it would issue an easement to complete construction, a decision the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said was a violation of its rights.
“We are a sovereign nation and we will fight to protect our water and sacred places from the brazen private interests trying to push this pipeline through to benefit a few wealthy Americans with financial ties to the Trump administration,” Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in an emailed statement.
Before Trump took office, the Army Corps of Engineers said further review was needed in order to assess tribal interests associated with the construction of the last few hundred feet of the pipeline. That decision left the $3.7 billion pipeline in limbo for pipeline consortium Energy Transfer Partners, an entity in which President Trump had a financial interest.
A federal appeals court in October backed a lower court’s ruling that construction can proceed in the face of challenges to the extent of Army consultation with tribal groups concerned about the sanctity of sacred sites.
The Army said it wouldn’t finish an environmental review of the project that was ordered in December by the previous administration because President Trump issued an executive order calling for an expedited review process of the project.
“The tribe will challenge any easement decision on the grounds that the environmental impact statement was wrongfully terminated,” Archambault said.
The tribe said its attorneys found the final easement could not be granted legally at this time. A separate statement from Amnesty International said the Trump administration’s decision was a clear and “appalling” violation of the rights of indigenous peoples.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, said the project has already faced months of delays he said were politically driven.
There’s not enough pipeline capacity to carry all of the oil produced in North Dakota, which leaves energy companies depending on rail as an alternative. Derailments of trains carrying North Dakota crude oil have proved deadly, as in the case of the Lac-Megantic tragedy in 2013. Rail is a more expensive transit option than pipelines.