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Port: Standing Rock's 2014 pipeline objection is irrelevant

In a desperate attempt to justify months of obstinate, unlawful, and often violent protest the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe released audio from a 2014 meeting with Energy Transfer Partners at which the tribe said they'd oppose the Dakota Access Pipe...

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columnist Rob Port

In a desperate attempt to justify months of obstinate, unlawful, and often violent protest the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe released audio from a 2014 meeting with Energy Transfer Partners at which the tribe said they'd oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The audio was picked up and regurgitated by credulous reporters and left wing commentators who treated it as some sort of smoking gun in the case against the pipeline.

It is not.

It's an attempt to muddy the waters. A red herring for the lightly informed. Another talking point for the mindless social media drones to share incessantly as though it were meaningful.

The occasion in question was a courtesy meeting scheduled with the tribe by representatives of Energy Transfer Partners. It was in no way part of the legal process through which pipelines such as the Dakota Access project are approved. No state or federal regulators were party to the conversation. It was a meeting between two private entities with an interest in the pipeline.

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That Standing Rock voiced their opposition to the pipeline at this meeting, based on a 2012 resolution the tribal council passed against pipelines and fracking in general, doesn't change the fact that the tribe largely failed to participate in the regulatory process around the pipeline.

Claiming otherwise would be like saying the State of North Dakota doesn't have to participate in a federal tax hike because our Legislature passed a resolution against against tax hikes one time.

It's like saying that you should win a lawsuit in court, despite not showing up to hearings, because you sent the other side an email stating your case.

Or believing that Hillary Clinton should be President because you wrote about how much you dislike Donald Trump on Facebook.

Things just don't work that way. You still have to show up.

The factual record, as established in federal court, shows that the tribe largely abdicated their responsibility to participate in the state and federal regulatory process which led to the approval of this pipeline.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "documented dozens of attempts it made to consult with the Standing Rock Sioux from the fall of 2014 through the spring of 2016," federal Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee, wrote in September.

"Suffice it to say that the Tribe largely refused to engage in consultations," he continued.

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The tribe also did not engage the State of North Dakota when the Public Service Commission was reviewing the pipeline. They showed for not a single meeting about the pipeline, nor did they submit any written testimony to the PSC.

"It is still difficult for me to understand why the tribe didn't intervene in the process and have a seat at the table," Commissioner Julie Fedorchak told reporter Amy Dalrymple.

In the audio former tribal council member Phyllis Young can be heard telling the pipeline company representatives that the tribe will do "whatever it takes" to stop the project.

If that were true, why didn't the tribe show up to the state's hearings on the pipeline? Why didn't they even send a letter to state regulators voicing their opposition? Why did the tribe blow off meetings with the Corps?

For that matter, why didn't the tribe reference this 2014 meeting in their federal court filings asking that pipeline construction be halted?

These are the questions for which the tribe doesn't seem to have any good answers.

It's almost as though the tribe, partnering with environmental extremist groups, chose violent and unlawful demonstrations over peaceful participation in a well-established regulatory process.

That is deeply unfortunate, and no doubt something the tribe and its media apologists would like you to ignore.

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