Nessel joins coalition backing DAPL shutdown

By: - September 25, 2020 5:21 am

Native Americans take part in the grand entry of traditional dancers at the “Rocking the Rez” Pow Wow on October 1, 2016 in Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Texas. The pow wow, held on the reservation near the U.S.-Mexico border in west Texas, drew in First Nation peoples from around the United States. Tribal leaders expressed support for protesters that have blocked construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. | John Moore/Getty Images

Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition supporting the federal court order shutting down the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). 

Michigan joins 18 other states, territories and countries urging the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm strict enforcement of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Nessel has previously sued Enbridge — which owns Line 5 and also is a partial owner of the DAPL — on behalf of the state of Michigan due to environmental concerns about that pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac. 

A court decision was announced in July that the DAPL must shut down due to an environmental review. That pipeline runs from North Dakota and has been opposed by environmental groups and Native American tribes, including the Standing Rock Sioux. President Trump has been a staunch supporter.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to comply with legal requirements by neglecting to fully consider the consequences of a breach of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and my colleagues and I urge the Court of Appeals to affirm the lower court’s ruling,” Nessel said in the press release on Thursday. “This oil and gas pipeline could potentially impact the environment and has climate change implications we cannot overlook. Moreover, we must join our Indigenous partners who have led the way in raising the alarm about the environmental threat this project poses. As they have advocated from the beginning, shutting down this project is essential to protecting the environment.”

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated NEPA by “failing to complete an environmental impact statement before the agency granted the easement authorizing the pipeline.” 

Nessel said joining this coalition means protecting the interests of the tribes and supporting environmental justice. 

“The case could reaffirm long standing legal principles that benefit Michigan, other states and their residents in their own challenges to environmentally harmful projects within their communities and beyond,” the AG press release said.

According to the brief that was filed, courts should vacate a federal agency’s action if it violates NEPA. NEPA is built on the, “Commonsense principle that the federal government must first fully analyze the potential environmental consequences of its proposed actions, disclose those impacts for public dialogue, and seek to use that knowledge to avoid or mitigate potential environmental harm.”

Federal court enforcement and compliance of NEPA is more important now than ever, the brief reads.  

“Today — in the midst of the devastating effects of a changing climate and increasing awareness that environmental harms are disproportionately borne by our most vulnerable and historically disenfranchised communities – it is more important than ever to fully understand, evaluate, and disclose for public dialogue the environmental effects of such federal actions,” the brief says.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Katie O'Brien Kelley
Katie O'Brien Kelley

Katie O'Brien Kelley is a Michigan State University graduate with degrees in journalism and theatre. She was previously a reporter, editor and podcast coordinator at The State News — Michigan State's award-winning student paper. As a reporter there, she covered the university's administration, including its mishandling of reports against former doctor Larry Nassar's abuse, as well as academics and student experiences. She was also previously an intern at the Lansing City Pulse.