Tribe asks judge for 'meaningful role' in pipeline study

The American Indian tribe leading the legal fight against the Dakota Access oil pipeline is accusing federal officials of being uncooperative as they complete more court-ordered environmental study of the project.

The Standing Rock Sioux is asking a federal judge to order that the tribe be allowed "a meaningful role" in the process. The Cheyenne River Sioux last month made a similar request. If U.S. District Judge James Boasberg grants the requests, it could delay the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' anticipated April 2 completion of the work.

The Corps has been working since last summer to meet Boasberg's order to further study the pipeline's impact on tribal interests, including how an oil spill under Lake Oahe in the Dakotas might impact the tribes' water supply. Late last year, he also ordered the Corps and Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners to work with the tribes on completing a spill response plan and selecting an independent engineering company to review whether the project complies with federal laws and regulations.

Tribal attorney Jan Hasselman in court documents filed March 2 accuses the Corps of "consistently ignoring the requests of the tribe for information and meaningful consultation" and calls the tribe's participation "correspondingly handicapped."

"Government-to-government consultation has not even begun," he said. "The tribe furthermore remains in the dark about the exchange of information that is occurring between (ETP) and the Corps."

Hasselman also accuses the company of not adequately consulting with the tribe over selection of the independent third-party auditor and the scope of the review, and asks Boasberg to intervene.

"This relief will require postponing the April 2nd anticipated date for completion," Hasselman said.

Officials with the Corps and ETP didn't respond to requests for comment. Corps attorneys in their most recent status report filed with the court, on Feb. 1, detail difficulties in obtaining "substantive information" needed 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.

The $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline began moving North Dakota oil to Illinois last June. Boasberg is allowing oil to flow while the additional environmental review is done.


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