May 20, 2020

Senator Warren Joins Bicameral Amicus Brief Urging Court to Halt Dakota Access Pipeline Operation Until Tribal, Environmental Impacts Assessed

Filing supports Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s legal efforts

Amicus Brief (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today joined House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) in the filing of an amicus brief with 35 House and Senate colleagues in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, urging the court to halt operation of the nearly 1,200-mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The lawmakers argued that the pipeline must not be allowed to continue operations before the government analyzes the potentially disastrous effects on the environment and nearby tribal communities. The congressional amicus brief supports the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

The DAPL is designed to transport 570,000 barrels of fracked oil from North Dakota to Illinois each day, pending the completion of a court-mandated assessment of its environmental impacts. Today’s amicus brief outlines the many legal reasons the court should shut down the pipeline until the Army Corps of Engineers completes a formal Environmental Impact Statement on allowing the project to continue operating.

On Feb. 7, 2017, the Corps granted an easement authorizing DAPL to cross the Missouri River near the Lake Oahe reservoir, an important tribal resource. The decision was made shortly after President Trump instructed federal officials, just days into his term, to expedite review and approval of the DAPL. Oil began flowing on March 27 that same year.

Later in 2017, a federal court held that the Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to evaluate adequately the DAPL’s environmental consequences. However, the court did not halt DAPL operations while the Corps reevaluated the project.

Earlier this year, the court again found that the Corps violated NEPA and ordered the Corps to produce an environmental impact statement (EIS), which the agency has yet to complete.

The question now is whether the court should shut down the pipeline until the EIS is completed. The congressional amicus brief argues that it must do so for two reasons:

  1. Allowing the pipeline to continue while the Corps continues work on the EIS turns NEPA on its head and destroys its central legislative purpose, which is to require agencies to evaluate environmental consequences before taking an action that could have serious, irreversible effects.
  2. Allowing the pipeline to continue operating severely undermines the affected tribal nations’ treaty rights and sovereignty.

A ruling is expected this summer.

In addition to Senator Warren, the brief was joined by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

In the House of Representatives, in addition to Chairman Grijalva, the brief was joined by Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (D-Ill.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Gregorio Sablan (D-CNMI), José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.).