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Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, March 7th, 2017.

Judge refuses to stop construction of Dakota Access pipeline



A federal judge declined Tuesday to temporarily stop construction of the final section of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline, clearing the way for oil to flow as soon as next week.

The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes pledged to continue their legal fight against the project, even after the pipeline begins operating.

The tribes had asked U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw permission for Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners to lay pipe under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The stretch under the Missouri River reservoir in southern North Dakota is the last piece of construction for the $3.8 billion pipeline to move North Dakota oil to Illinois.

The tribes argued that a pipeline under the lake violates their right to practice their religion, which relies on clean water, and they wanted the work suspended until the claim could be resolved.

When they filed their lawsuit last summer, the tribes argued that the pipeline threatens Native American cultural sites and their water supply. Their religion argument was new, however, and disputed by both the Corps and the company.

Boasberg in his ruling Tuesday said the tribes didn’t raise the religion argument in a timely fashion. He also questioned its merit.

“Although the tribe’s members may feel unable to use the water from Lake Oahe in their religious ceremonies once the pipeline is operational, there is no specific ban on their religious exercise,” he said.

The judge’s decision came as American Indians from across the country gathered in Washington to protest President Donald Trump’s policies encouraging oil pipelines. Native Americans are planning four days of activities including lobbying lawmakers and culminating in a march on the White House. Tribal members and supporters plan to camp each day on the National Mall, with teepees, a ceremonial fire, cultural workshops and speakers.

“Trump and his friends at Big Oil have not won,” Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault said in response to Boasberg’s ruling, adding that “the bigger legal battle is ahead — we stand strong.”

Standing Rock attorney Jan Hasselman and Cheyenne River attorney Nicole Ducheneaux said they hadn’t decided whether to appeal Boasberg’s ruling. In the meantime, they said, they’ll continue to argue for more environmental study and for the government to recognize the tribe’s treaty rights to clean water.

They don’t expect a court hearing until at least April — long after pipeline operations are expected to begin — but Boasberg “can order the pipeline turned back off, and that’s what we’ll be asking for,” Hasselman said.

Work under Lake Oahe had been held up in the courts until Trump last month instructed the Corps to advance construction. The Army is involved because its engineering branch manages the river and its system of hydroelectric dams, which is owned by the federal government.

The company began drilling under the lake Feb. 8. Company attorney William Scherman said in court documents that the pipeline could be moving oil as early as next week, and company spokeswoman Vicki Granado said it could be fully operational about three weeks later.

The MAIN Coalition, an industry group made up of agriculture, business and labor entities that benefit from Midwest infrastructure projects, praised Boasberg’s ruling paving the way for the project’s completion. The decision “further demonstrates that both the Army Corps of Engineers and Dakota Access have fully complied with all established laws and regulations,” spokesman Craig Stevens said.



In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

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Former Navy SEAL Rep. Zinke takes up Secretary of Interior


Western Livestock Journal

March 6, 2017

It’s official: Montana Congressman and former Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke will serve a tour as U.S. Secretary of Interior. On March 1, the Senate confirmed him on a vote of 68-31. The yeas included 16 Democrats.

Zinke will oversee Bureau of Land Management (BLM); U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); National Park Service; Bureau of Reclamation; Bureau of Indian Affairs; and others.

Livestock groups including Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Montana Stockgrowers Association have expressed strong support for Zinke’s confirmation.

“Secretary Zinke is from the West and understands the unique challenges faced by communities with a large federal footprint,” said PLC President Dave Eliason. “We look forward to working with him and his staff at the Department of the Interior to restore the role of local input in planning and review processes, fix laws like the Endangered Species Act, and protect grazing rights that are so critical to western economies.”

On the issues

WLJ took a look at some of Zinke’s actions in Congress, as well as his confirmation testimony before the Senate in January. The following are his positions on some of the issues.

Multiple use: At his confirmation hearing, Zinke identified himself as an “unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt,” saying he supports multiple uses on the majority of public lands, except in special areas where wilderness protections are appropriate.

National monuments should have state and local support, he said. He voiced willingness to take a look at existing monuments and give the president recommendations as to their appropriateness.

He noted federal lands are important to national and local economies, places to “harvest timber, mine, and provide our nation with critical energy.” As an avid hunter, he also said he is “particularly concerned with public access.”

In 2015, he took part in the drafting of the Housepassed Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015 (HR 2647), which, if enacted, would have encouraged local collaboration on timber projects and curbed environmental lawsuits by requiring litigious groups to post bond.

Energy independence is paramount, he stated in his testimony, especially given that other countries may not use the same environmental standards we do in harnessing energy sources. He said he’s a firm believer in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Transfer of federal lands:

In his testimony, Zinke stated, “I am absolutely against transfer or sale of public land.” He also said he supports full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a fund that can be used by the federal government to purchase land.

Climate change: “The climate is changing,” Zinke testified. “That’s undisputable.” He also said “man has had an influence.” However, he said, there is debate as to “what that influence is, and what can we do about it…” He said we should be “prudent” about how we move forward to address climate change.

Endangered Species: Although WLJ was not able to find direct statements from Zinke about the Endangered Species Act, he has been criticized by environmental groups for casting “at least 21 votes against endangered species protection…” According to a letter signed by 170 groups in February, Zinke has voted “to remove endangered species protections for the gray wolf and to prevent protection for greater sage-grouse, lesser prairie chicken and northern long-eared bats.”

Sage grouse: Zinke was a vocal opponent of the BLM’s plans to federally manage sage-grouse populations in western states. In May of 2015, he released a statement:

“Once again the Obama administration is undermining the authority of sovereign states to manage our own land, resources, and wildlife with one of their signature ‘Washington knows best’ plans,” he said. “… I support a state-based plan that gives local stakeholders a seat at the table.”

Montana Stockgrowers has called him a “great advocate for Montana” regarding issues such as bison, sage-grouse, and federal grazing permits.

WLJ will keep readers apprized as Secretary Zinke goes about hiring directors for BLM, USFWS and other relevant agencies under his purview. — Theodora Johnson, WLJ Correspondent

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml


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