Tulsi Gabbard Urges President to Immediately Halt Dakota Access Pipeline

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Urges President to Immediately Halt Dakota Access Pipeline

December 01, 2016

Washington, DC—In a speech on the House floor Thursday, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) called on President Obama to immediately halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and announced plans to join thousands of veterans from across the country to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota this weekend.

“Growing up in Hawaii, I learned the value of caring for our home, caring for our planet, and the basic principle that we are all connected in a great chain of cause and effect.

“The Dakota Access Pipeline is a threat to this great balance of life. Despite strong opposition from the Standing Rock Sioux and serious concerns raised by the EPA, the Department of Interior, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and other Federal agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers approved permits to construct the Dakota Access Pipeline without adequately consulting the tribes, and without fully evaluating the potential impacts to neighboring tribal lands, sacred sites, and their water supply. Just one spill near the tribe’s reservation could release thousands of barrels of crude oil, contaminating the tribe’s drinking water.

“The impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline is clear. Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the Dakota Pipeline, has a history of serious pipeline explosions, which have caused injury, death, and significant property damage in the past decade. The future operator of the planned pipeline, Sunoco Logistics, has had over 200 environmentally damaging oil spills in the last 6 years alone—more than any of its competitors.

“Protecting our water is not a partisan political issue—it is an issue that is important to all people and all living beings everywhere. Water is life. We cannot survive without it. Once we allow an aquifer to be polluted, there is very little that can be done about it. This is why it is essential that we prevent water resources from being polluted in the first place.

“Our Founding Fathers took great inspiration from Native American forms of governance, and the democratic principles that they were founded on. Their unique form of governance was built on an agreement called the Great Law of Peace, which states that before beginning their deliberations, the council shall be obliged, and I quote, “to express their gratitude to their cousins and greet them, and they shall make an address and offer thanks to the earth where men dwell, to the streams of water, the pools, the springs and the lakes, to the maize and the fruits, to the medicinal herbs and trees, to the forest trees for their usefulness, and to the Great Creator who dwells in the heavens above, who gives all the things useful to men, and who is the source and the ruler of health and life."

“This recognition of our debt to the Creator and our responsibility to be responsible members of this great web of life was there from the beginning of Western democracy.

“Freedom is not a buzzword. The freedom of our Founding Fathers was not the freedom to bulldoze wherever you like.

“Our freedom is a freedom of mind, a freedom of heart, freedom to worship as we see fit, freedom from tyranny and freedom from terror. That’s the freedom this country was founded on, the freedom cultivated by America’s Native people, and the freedom the Standing Rock Sioux are now exercising.

“This weekend I'm joining thousands of veterans from across the country at Standing Rock to stand in solidarity with our Native American brothers and sisters. Together we call on President Obama to immediately halt the construction of this pipeline, respect the sacred lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, and respect their right to clean water. The truth is, whether it's the threat to essential water sources in this region, the lead contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, or the threat posed to a major Hawaiʻi aquifer by the Red Hill fuel leak, each example underscores the vital importance of protecting our water resources.

“We can’t undo history, but we must learn lessons from the past and carry them forward—to encourage cooperation among free people, to protect the sacred, to care for the Earth and for our children, and our children’s children. What’s at stake is our shared heritage of freedom and democracy and our shared future on this Great Turtle Island, our great United States of America.”

Background: In September, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and 18 House Democrats wrote to President Barack Obama calling on the United States Army Corps of Engineers to fulfill their responsibility of holding meaningful consultation and collaboration with the Standing Rock Sioux over the route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The full text of the letter:

Dear President Obama:

As Members of the Congressional Native American Caucus, we are writing to you to share our deep concerns with the lack of tribal consultation in the routing of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). In recent weeks, we have heard from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe about the destructive impact that the current route of this pipeline could have upon the tribe’s sacred and cultural places, as well as the risks posed to their waters, due to the lack of proper engagement from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). We stand with tribal leaders in asking you to uphold our federal trust responsibility and protect tribal interests in this and future permitting decisions by the USACE.

The federal government has a moral and legal trust responsibility to ensure that federally permitted projects do not threaten historically or culturally significant tribal places, the trust lands of tribal nations, or the waters that run through them. Pursuant to Executive Order 13175 of November 6, 2000, and reinforced by the Presidential Memorandum on Tribal Consultation of November 5, 2009, the executive departments and agencies of the federal government are to engage in “regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials”. In the instance of the DAPL, despite its location within a mile of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the USACE failed in its responsibility to engage in meaningful consultation and collaboration with potentially impacted tribal nations.

We are encouraged by the September 9th announcement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior that the Army would be halting construction of the DAPL on Army Corps land and undertaking a review of its previous decisions about the Lake Oahe site. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is currently petitioning the courts to determine whether the approval process for the DAPL was fully compliant with the National Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and our federal trust responsibility. We urge the Administration to maintain its hold on further permitting for the DAPL project until the concerns of the Tribe about the protection of their sacred sites, homelands, and water quality have been fully addressed. In the meantime, we are pleased to see that the Administration will be holding formal government-to-government consultations this fall to improve tribal input on infrastructure decisions. We look forward to working with you on legislative proposals to ensure the preservation of tribal sacred and historic sites, protection of trust lands, and access to clean water are prioritized for the DAPL and other USACE project decisions.

As Members of Congress and as fellow trustees for tribal lands with the Administration, we are deeply disappointed in this lapse in our nation-to-nation relationship. Ultimately, the lack of proper consultation on the DAPL has been detrimental to the interests of all stakeholders in this issue, from the tribal governments whose heritage and lands are at risk to the workers hired to construct this pipeline who now face uncertain conditions. When tribal consultation is neglected, both tribal nations and our nation as a whole suffer.

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