The Dakota Access oil pipeline may be nearly operational, but some Democrats are raising concerns about what they say is the alarming lack of oversight surrounding the controversial project.
This week, Senators Tom Carper (DE) and Maria Cantwell (WA)—the ranking members of the senate’s Environment & Public Works and Energy & Natural Resources committee, respectively—sent a series of questions to Lt. General Todd Semonite of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, demanding answers about the recently restarted construction which was greenlit by President Donald Trump.
While the senators’ letter does not have the weight of a congressional subpoena, it does suggest that there are lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are willing to dig into the murky issues surrounding of the pipeline’s construction—and into the haste with which Trump gave the go-ahead to the project once he took office.
The letter, dated April 3, requests answers from the Corps by the 12th.
“We write to share our concern that the Corps has provided virtually no information to Congress regarding its oversight of the project,” the letter—provided to Fusion by the Lakota People’s Law Project—explained. It continued:
“We sorely lack an understanding of the Corps’ efforts to make sure that Energy Transfer Partners [which is building the pipeline] complies with even the most fundamental environmental, safety, and mitigation conditions of its easement and permits, as it undertakes project-related construction activities.”
The letter went on to request documentation about the timeline of the pipeline’s construction and to question how the Corps determined Energy Transfer Partners has been fully compliant with its legal obligations at every step of the process. Carper and Cantwell were particularly concerned about a promised environmental impact statement which has been circumvented by the Trump administration’s quick approval of the project, and the way in which Native tribes have been consulted. The senators also demanded to see communications between the Trump transition team, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Energy Transfer Partners
“The conflict over the Dakota Access pipeline is not simply a confrontation between American Indians and the United States government, it is a clash between visions for how we live,” Lakota People’s Law Project lead council Chase Iron Eyes, himself a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a statement. “The Trump administration has pushed this pipeline through by disregarding the health and safety of millions of people and our planet. The people of Standing Rock, and those who stand with us, continue to put forward an alternate vision, one in which we treat our fellow human beings with respect, and treat our Grandmother Earth as our relative, who we must honor and care for.”
For more than a year, activists have fought against the construction of the pipeline, arguing that its presence threatens the sacred land and waters of North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Protesters at and around the construction site were frequently targeted by heavily militarized police, using water cannons, and rubber bullets to subdue the activists.
Read the full letter below.