Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today led the filing of an amicus curiae brief alongside House and Senate colleagues with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a case filed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Native American tribes against the Army Corps of Engineers over permits granted to build the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Among other issues, the brief – available at https://bit.ly/3i1w6Y0 – cites Congress’ interest in “preserving the integrity of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including those aspects of the statute that protect and respect the sovereign rights of federally recognized tribes[.]”
The brief follows an earlier filing on May 20, when lawmakers filed an amicus brief before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which ruled in favor of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on July 6. Today’s filing is on the appeal of that ruling to a higher court.
The lawmakers cite a specific concern that allowing the Army Corp’s DAPL permit – technically an easement to operate near Lake Oahe, which is a vital water source for Great Plains tribes across a multi-state region – to stand will undermine NEPA’s fundamental purpose of considering public input on the outcome of major projects with potentially serious environmental and public health consequences. They write:
As members of Congress who wish to preserve the integrity of this historic act, amici are concerned with the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back NEPA’s strict procedural requirements through executive orders and by forging ahead with projects (including the Dakota Access Pipeline) without first taking the necessary “hard look” at the environmental consequences in full view of the public. […]
If this Court overturns the district court’s careful factual findings in multiple reviews of the Corps’ NEPA process and analysis and allows the Corps again to act first and comply later while leaving its three-year-old easement decision in place (for an indeterminate time), amici fear the precedent will cause incalculable harm to NEPA and the values Congress intended the statute to protect.
A ruling is not expected in the case until next year.
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