You Think They’re Just Taking Native Land? More Pipelines in the Pipeline
March 1, 2017
You think it’s just Indigenous Land?
William Atkinson and his wife Wilma are among 58 property owners in Michigan facing an eminent domain lawsuit filed in federal court by Energy Transfer Rover Pipeline earlier this month.
“They want to build an access road through our property, but we have not agreed to that yet,” Marion Township resident William Atkinson said.
“I’m not happy about eminent domain. I don’t think it’s right they can do that.”
The company is ready to start building an interstate natural-gas pipeline, but hasn’t yet secured easements, which would give it right-of-way, from all of the private property owners, government entities and utility companies along the route.
Exercising the power of eminent domain would allow the company to seize lands along the pipeline’s route and construct the pipeline through properties regardless of whether property owners agree to it. It would also allow the company to temporarily access properties during construction, even if the property owners are against it.
At 2 pm local time on February 22, police started forcing out protesters from an encampment in Standing Rock, North Dakota, who had been trying for months to block the completion of Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Though the water protectors won multiple victories stalling construction during their multi-monthstand, in late January President Donald Trump announced executive actions calling for expedited construction of the highly contentious pipeline project, owned by Energy Transfer Partners. Trump’s decision, which also streamlined the permitting process for the once defunct Keystone XL pipeline, spelled emphatic support of large-scale oil and gas projects, the type of which are expected to increase under his administration.
The rush to build massive pipelines began before the election of President Trump, spurred in part by Congress’s repeal of a 40-year-old ban on oil exports in December 2015 (backed by then-President Barack Obama). Even before that decision, the United States was already the world’s largest exporter of diesel, gasoline, and aviation fuel, and a net exporter of coal. With a glut of oil and gas discoveries in the Marcellus, Barnett, and Bakken shale formations, an increase in American large-scale fossil fuel production has long been in the works and is expected to flourish in the coming years. Pipeline construction will likely expand under President Trump’s new infrastructure plan; maps of pending projects for crude oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids show just how extensive this development will be. And the rollback of environmental regulations will only encourage new construction. “It is the policy of the executive branch to streamline and expedite,” Trump announced in his executive order on pipelines.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge said Tuesday that he’ll decide within a week whether to temporarily halt construction of the final section of the Dakota Access pipeline over claims that it violates the religious rights of two Indian tribes.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg told lawyers at a hearing that he wants to issue a ruling before oil begins flowing in the pipeline, which could be weeks away.
Boasberg is considering a request by the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes to order the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw permission to lay pipe under Lake Oahe in North Dakota. The pipeline has prompted months of protests and hundreds of arrests.
The stretch under the Missouri River reservoir is the last piece of construction for the $3.8 billion pipeline, which would move oil through the Dakotas and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois.
Tribal attorney Nicole Ducheneaux argued during the 1 ½ hour hearing that the mere existence of an oil pipeline under the reservoir that provides water to neighboring reservations violates their right to practice their religion, which relies on clean water.
Boasberg asked Ducheneaux how there could be a contamination issue if “the pipeline itself doesn’t even touch the water.”
“Can you claim a property interest in the land as well as the water?” he asked.
Ducheneaux said the judge appeared to be questioning the sincerity of the tribes’ beliefs and stressed there was no other source of clean water available near the tribe’s reservation.
American Indian activist Chase Iron Eyes, an outspoken opponent of the pipeline, attended the hearing and said afterward that “from the way that the judge was asking questions, it’s clear that American or Western (courts) … lack a place intellectually or spiritually to comprehend the sacred relationship between the original peoples of this hemisphere and the waters, the sacred sites and the lands in our hemisphere.”
UPDATE: More reporting from the Detroit Free Press:
The stakes along a neighbor’s horse farm, about 100 feet from Jerry and Karen Jones’ Putnam Township home, mark where the natural gas pipeline will run.
Karen Jones said the family will likely move away because of the pipeline. She worries their home is too close if an explosion occurred.
“It’s devastating,” she said. “We built our house 11 years ago, and it’s all our blood, sweat and tears. It’s our retirement.”
The Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission on Feb. 2 gave Energy Transfer Rover approval to build an 800-mile interstate natural gas pipeline. The Rover Pipeline will pass through about 15 miles of Livingston County, coming from the south through Washtenaw and Lenawee counties.
Now the company is suing property owners in the three Michigan counties, to gain easements to build the pipeline. In Livingston County, that includes eight private property owners and the county’s drain commission.