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Tribes File Lawsuit to Block Keystone Pipeline

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

After twice being denied presidential permits to build the Keystone XL Pipeline connecting Alberta, Canada to America's Gulf Coast, the third time was a charm for TransCanada. In fact, it was President Donald Trump who, in his first week in office, signed an executive memorandum "invit[ing] TransCanada ... to promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline."

And while Trump promised the pipelines would "use materials and equipment produced in the United States, to the maximum extent possible," that didn't address the lack of environmental impact analyses, according to a recent lawsuit trying to block the Keystone XL project.

No Environmental Review

The suit, filed by the Fort Belknap Indian Community of Montana and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota claims the Trump administration failed to adhere to historical treaty boundaries and "initiated no public process or environmental review of any kind for the third permit application":

In granting this third application, there was no analysis of the trust obligation the federal government owes to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and their unique water system, no analysis of the potential impact of the Pipeline on treaty rights, no analysis of the subpar leak detection system and the potential impact of spills on Rosebud Sioux Tribe's members, and no analysis of the potential impact on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's cultural resources and historic properties in the path of the Pipeline, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

The allegations are similar for the Fort Belknap Indian Community. The two plaintiffs comprise over 40,000 members living in Montana and South Dakota and their lawsuit cites numerous Keystone Pipeline spills that, if they occurred on tribal homelands would affect "ancestral lands, sacred sites, and historic sites."

No Pipeline

The tribes' lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court in Montana to set aside the permit as unlawful under the Administrative Procedures Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and National historic Preservation Act, and prohibit "any activity in furtherance of the construction, connection, operation, and maintenance of the Pipeline and related facilities." After protests and past presidents have failed, this may be the last legal chance to block the Keystone Pipeline project.

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