Energy & Environment

Standing again with Standing Rock to defend water, land and life

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The effort to halt the environmentally damaging energy production and transfer methods of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines is a stand for future generations of Americans, and ourselves, to live a healthy life. If we truly support life, we must stop plundering the earth that enables life to be born and sustained. 

The gathering of peoples from all over North America in defense of water and land, in the emblematic battle for the rights of tribal communities at Standing Rock, represents a significant shift toward a more prescient activism driven to defend our ability, and that of future generations, to live in an unpolluted America.

All across the United States a new movement is stirring: to protect the life of the planet through protecting life-giving water and fertile land from poisonous oil spills. 

{mosads}Standing Rock is in North Dakota, but the spirit of Standing Rock is alive across the nation. It is in New York’s Hudson River Valley, in Salt Lake City, Utah, in Nash County, N.C., in Sandisfield, Mass., and throughout every state in America where people are battling to protect life-giving natural resources from the development of short-sighted, outdated energy production and transfer.


Last November, my wife Elizabeth and I, joined by musician Dave Matthews, traveled from Bismarck through a treacherous blizzard to Standing Rock in support of the effort to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from destroying land and poisoning water.

We met with tribal leaders to examine political and legal strategies to stop DAPL and followed up with legal and environmental experts over the best path forward. 

Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order to push through DAPL as well as the Keystone XL pipeline. This compounds a great injustice to the tribal community at Standing Rock. The way forward now is a robust legal challenge.

Here is the background:

DAPL approval stems from what we believe to be the underhanded tactics of the Army Corps of Engineers, which concealed material facts that can now be the basis of a legal appeal to overturn the executive order and stop the permitting process.

We maintain that the Army Corps deliberately withheld critical information during a 2016 DAPL Environmental Assessment, which is only a cursory inspection of the issues at stake, as opposed to a comprehensive Environmental Impact Study.  

If the concealed information could have publicly surfaced, it could have ended Energy Transfer Partners’ entire pipeline and most certainly would have prohibited it from going through tribal territory at Lake Oahe near Standing Rock.

The Army Corps admitted as much in a Dec. 4, 2016, letter announcing a temporary postponement of the easement:

“Because of security concerns and sensitivities, several documents supporting the Environmental Assessment were marked confidential and were withheld from the public or representatives and experts of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. 

“These documents include a North Dakota Lake Oahe Crossing Spill Model Discussion prepared by the Wood Group Mustang, the Lake Oahe HDD Risk Analysis Report and the DAPL Route Comparison and Environmental Justice Considerations Memorandum.”

We believe that this information, hidden from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, environmental experts and the public, would likely reveal:  

  1. The spill model would likely confirm that oil would leak into the tribal water supply.
  2. The risk analysis would demonstrate the likelihood of contamination.
  3. The Environmental Justice Considerations Memo could be so compelling that this single factor alone would disqualify the route.
  4. The route comparison would certainly reveal that the route through Standing Rock was less expensive than one 10 miles north.

The more stringent Environmental Impact Study is now underway. If its results are made known, it will reveal defects in the initial easement process. It must not be swept aside by the new administration, which is pursuing the DAPL.  

It was indefensible, in the early stages of discovery, for the Army Corps to have withheld vital documents necessary to protect the sovereignty, the health and the water supply of Standing Rock.  

We also maintain this was illegal, because it deprived the tribal communities of key information and thereby subverted the tribes’ constitutional right of due process of law.

The Trump administration needs to understand it will have a fight on its hands, because of the concealment of vital information by the Army Corp of Engineers and because an awakened citizenry is ready to defend its rights to clean water, clear air and land unspoiled.

The administration must not stop the Environmental Impact Statement, nor discount its findings.


Dennis Kucinich is a former U.S. representative from Ohio, serving from 1997 to 2013. He was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2004 and 2008. 

The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Tags Dakota Access Pipeline Donald Trump Environment North Dakota Protests Standing Rock Sioux tribe Treaty violations United States Washington D.C.
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