The tribes are seeking to block any further construction on the pipeline operated by TransCanada. They also want the court to rescind a presidential 2017 permit granted by the State Department and blessed by Donald Trump.

Less than a month after a Montana federal judge’s August 15 order that the U.S. State Department conduct a full environmental review of a revised path for the Keystone pipeline before construction can begin, the Fort Belknap Indian Community of Montana and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe have filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for failing to, as NPR reported, “adhere to historical treaty boundaries and circumvented environmental impact analysis.”

According to NPR, the tribes say there was no effort to study how the 1,200-mile pipeline project would affect their water systems and sacred lands, echoing concerns that became reality following the debate of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which has seen numerous leaks, according to The Intercept. As reported by CNN and The Washington Post, in November 2017, the Keystone pipeline run by TransCanada (an already operational “sister project” of Keystone XL), spilled over 200,000 gallons of oil.

"There was no analysis of trust obligations, no analysis of treaty rights, no analysis of the potential impact on hunting and fishing rights, no analysis of potential impacts on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's unique water system, no analysis of the potential impact of spills on tribal citizens, and no analysis of the potential impact on cultural sites in the path of the pipeline, which is in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act,” the tribe’s attorneys, the Native American Rights Fund, alleged in a statement announcing the lawsuit on September 10. The statement goes on to say that “countless historical, cultural, and religious sites” and two water sources for a Native-run utility would be crossed by the pipeline.

According to the Associated Press, TransCanada does not comment on pending litigation. TransCanada is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The State Department has jurisdiction over the pipeline because it would cross the border with Canada and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is named as a defendant in the case; State Department spokesperson Julia Mason told the AP that the department has no public response to the lawsuit.

As with DAPL, environmental concerns have been placed at odds with economic ones. NPR reported that Trump said the pipeline would create thousands of jobs, touting figures drawn from the project’s construction plan, as reported by Time. But according to a State Department assessment, the pipeline would only create 35 permanent jobs once operational.

Environmental advocates say pipelines like Keystone XL and any potential spills pose risks to natural water sources and animal habitats. Native Americans view the pipeline as a violation of tribal sovereignty; in 2014, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe president called the alleged plans for the pipeline to cross tribal lands “an act of war against our people.” (TransCanada denied that the pipeline would cross any tribal lands at the time.)

William Kindle, the president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe when the suit was filed, said this of the new lawsuit in a statement shared by the tribe’s legal team: “Through our attorneys—the Native American Rights Fund—the Rosebud Sioux Tribe will use all means available to fight in the courtroom this blatant trespass into Sicangu Lakota territory.”

In the lawsuit, the two Native American Tribes noted that Keystone XL’s permit application was denied twice under the previous president. In February 2015, then president Barack Obama vetoed a bill that would have authorized the pipeline, as The Washington Post reported. Later that same year in November, Obama’s State Department rejected a permit application, and Obama said in a statement the pipeline would not increase U.S. energy security, would not lower gas prices, and would not make “a meaningful long-term contribution to our economy.”


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