Fact Checking Claims of Federal Violations: Dakota Access Followed the Rule of Law

As the legal battle surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline takes center stage, protestors are lobbing a variety of federal violation allegations against the Pipeline.  But as Standing Rock Fact Checker has pointed out in the past – those claims are simply false.  The Pipeline followed a 2+ year approval and permitting process at the federal and state levels.

Below are just two key claims that opponents of the Pipeline have made of federal violations – both false – and the facts that refute that them.

Claim 1 – Archeological/Native/Cultural Sites:  The Sacred Stone Camp protestors claim that Executive Order 13007 on Protection of Sacred Sites was violated.  But three independent reviews have found there to be no sites of cultural significance along the route in North Dakota.  Specifically, the Sacred Stone group writes:

In managing federal lands, each executive branch agency shall avoid adversely affecting the physical integrity of such sites. There are historical ceremony sites and burial grounds in the immediate vicinity of the Missouri River crossing. The Corps must deny the DAPL permit to protect these sites.

Fact: Three independent reviews have all concluded both that there are no cultural sites along the pipeline route near the Sacred Stone site nor that anything of cultural significance has been impacted by construction in the area to date.  Neither the two year review process, Judge Boasberg’s review, nor the State Historical Society of North Dakota found evidence of culturally significant sites in the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction corridor. According to Chief Archaeologist Paul Picha, “The DAPL construction corridor had been stripped with topsoil stockpiled along the lateral margins…archaeologists traversed the corridor at seven-meter interval spacing…No cultural material was observed in the inspected corridor.”  Moreover, the on-site archaeologists have found no evidence during their surveys either. In fact, to date there has been no evidence whatsoever that validates statements made by Dakota Access protestors.

Claim 2 – Water Crossings: The Sacred Stone Camp protestors claim that Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice and the Pipeline Safety Act and Clean Water Act were violated.  Specifically, they write:

All agencies must determine if proposed project disproportionately impacts Tribal community or other minority community. The DAPL was original routed to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck. The crossing was moved to “avoid populated areas”, so instead of crossing upriver of the state’s capital, it crosses the aquifer of the Great Sioux Reservation.

But, the route was chosen to limit water crossings.  And a Federal Judge validated the government’s approval of the project that it did not violate the Act.

The current route was requested and chosen because it has 27 fewer water crossings and therefore presents a much lower risk to the environment than the original route, as detailed in the chart below.  The decision to change the route was made two years ago, very early on in the planning process.  Moreover, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water intake supply is set to be moved by the end of the year – a decision made well before the Tribe ever began their protest; and for reasons completely unrelated to the pipeline.


In addition, a judge appointed by President Obama, Judge Boasberg validated the federal government’s approval and review process conducted by the US Army Corps of Engineers in a his decision earlier this month.