In the wake of the Obama administration’s surprise decision to block a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, company reps seem confident they need only wait for President-elect Trump to keep building. But the lawyer who represents the Standing Rock Sioux says it won’t be so easy to overcome the legal hurdles.
“If an agency decides that a full environmental review is necessary, it can’t just change its mind with a stroke of a pen a few weeks later,” EarthJustice attorney Jan Hasselman told Grist. “That would be violation of the law, and it’s the kind of thing that a court would be called upon to review. It doesn’t mean they’re not going to try.”
Trump could force the pipeline through along the dispute route at Lake Oahe. He technically could ignore the Corps’ decision to fulfill a public Environmental Impact Statement with his newfound executive powers, but that might not be wise.
“He could in the sense that you can rob a bank, but you’d get in trouble,” Hasselman said.
If that were the case, Standing Rock would be prepared to take the matter to courts again, their lawyer told Grist.
“Circumventing the environmental assessment now that the agency has determined it’s the right course of action shouldn’t pass muster under legal standards,” he added.
For example, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that federal agencies can’t just flip on a dime on settled rulemaking that is based on facts because a new administration has taken over. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up the case, leaving the Circuit’s decision standing that the Bush administration couldn’t exempt the Tongass rainforest in Alaska from a conservation rule, when the agency’s fact-finding found otherwise.
Unless a conservative Supreme Court reverses course, then Standing Rock still has that advantage in a Trump era.
Going further to weaken environmental regulations overall would require a more robust change to the law with congressional action. With the law on their side for now, environmental justice advocates could challenge administration decisions just as they did in the Bush administration. (Talk about government interference: Trump is reportedly also considering privatizing oil-rich Native American land to boost oil companies.)
Energy Transfer Partners has its share of options, too — even if Trump didn’t reverse the decision, it could still sue to maintain the current route.
One of the surer bets on what’s next is that the company is going to have to wait longer to build its pipeline than it originally intended. Energy Transfer Partners wanted it to be operational by the end of the year. If the Corps decision holds, it could potentially be tied up as long as a year or two. It would have to undergo a full environmental assessment of route alternatives, which is the traditional way government agencies solicit input from the public and weigh the pros and cons of environmentally risky projects.
The pipeline is far from dead. But it’s also far from a sure thing.
A historian explains why Robert E. Lee wasn’t a hero — he was a traitor
There’s a fabled moment from the Battle of Fredericksburg, a gruesome Civil War battle that extinguished several thousand lives, when the commander of a rebel army looked down upon the carnage and said, “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.” That commander, of course, was Robert Lee.
The moment is the stuff of legend. It captures Lee’s humility (he won the battle), compassion, and thoughtfulness. It casts Lee as a reluctant leader who had no choice but to serve his people, and who might have had second thoughts about doing so given the conflict’s tremendous amount of violence and bloodshed. The quote, however, is misleading. Lee was no hero. He was neither noble nor wise. Lee was a traitor who killed United States soldiers, fought for human enslavement, vastly increased the bloodshed of the Civil War, and made embarrassing tactical mistakes.
Adam Schiff moves to implicate Pence in the Ukraine scandal as Republicans go off the rails
In the panoply of contradictory and incoherent defenses of Donald Trump, a favorite of Republicans has been to harp on the claim that witnesses to Trump's extortion scheme against Ukraine were all "second-hand" or "third-hand." This has always been confounding, as the official summary readout of the famous phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shows Trump clearly conditioning military aid and U.S. support on Zelensky giving a public boost to Trump's conspiracy theories about former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders. The witnesses so far have simply affirmed what the written record demonstrates amply.
Warren criticized for conciliatory remarks on post-coup Bolivia
Top-tier 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren is under fire from progressives and Indigenous activists for her comments Monday about the recent coup in Bolivia—remarks her critics called too conciliatory to the right-wing un-elected government that seized power after President Evo Morales was forced to resign and flee the country.
"The Bolivian people deserve free and fair elections, as soon as possible," Warren tweeted Monday afternoon. "Bolivia's interim leadership must limit itself to preparing for an early, legitimate election. Bolivia's security forces must protect demonstrators, not commit violence against them."