The developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline that goes under a reservoir in the Dakotas has submitted a court-ordered spill response plan, but an American Indian tribe that draws water from Lake Oahe is unsatisfied with the company's efforts and is taking steps of its own to protect its water supply.
The Standing Rock Sioux also worries that cultural sites could be harmed by oil spill response efforts or by the staging of equipment at the Missouri River reservoir.
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Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners submitted its 270-page spill response plan for Lake Oahe on Monday, along with a review by an independent engineering company that concludes the pipeline complies with federal regulations.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ordered Energy Transfer Partners last December to produce a plan, six months after ordering the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to further review the impact on tribal interests of the $3.8 billion pipeline that moves North Dakota oil to Illinois. That work is ongoing.
The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, which are leading a four-tribe lawsuit against the pipeline, say the Corps and ETP have not given them a meaningful role in the process. The tribes contend they weren't allowed to provide adequate input in the spill response plan or in the selection of the independent engineering company.
Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement filed with the court Monday that ETP failed to provide necessary documents for the tribe to review and didn't adequately communicate with the tribe, which "made it virtually impossible to conduct a good-faith, meaningful negotiation on emergency planning."
The tribe says Faith highlighted concerns about cultural sites being damaged in a Feb. 28 letter to ETP. The company's plan acknowledges the tribe's concern but says the tribe "did not specify locations for the sites ... (and) did not respond to a request for locations or other relevant information about these sites."
The tribe also has criticized ETP's estimate of a "worst-case scenario" spill, saying it did not use industry best practices and relied on "optimistic assumptions." The company says it follows the spill modeling requirements of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
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The tribe has announced its own "Clean Water Campaign," and is raising money to fund water-monitoring wells, equipment purchases and training for a rapid response team in the case of a spill.
Corps and ETP attorneys have accused the tribes of being difficult, and Justice Department attorney Matthew Marinelli told Boasberg on Monday that the Corps had yet to receive requested information from three of the four tribes that are suing. That will further delay completion of the review ordered by the judge, until at least next month, he said.
The pipeline has been operating since last June. Boasberg is allowing oil to flow while the reviews are being conducted.