August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Yet Again, Federal Court Invalidates Key Permit for Keystone XL


Rosebud Sioux Tribe Spirit Camp, 2014 (Photo: Matt Sloan / Bold Nebraska)

Yet Again, Federal Court Invalidates Key Permit for Keystone XL

Court blocks the use of Nationwide Permit 12 for pipeline water crossings


By Mark Hefflinger
Bold Nebraska
APRIL 15, 2020

GREAT FALLS, Montana — A federal judge ruled today (see ruling below) that the US Army Corps of Engineers violated the law when it approved Nationwide Permit 12, a key water crossing permit for TC Energy’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and many other pipelines nationwide. The ruling invalidates Nationwide Permit 12, prohibiting the Corps from using this fast-tracked approval process for any pipelines nationwide, including Keystone XL. The ruling could block construction through hundreds of water crossings along the Keystone XL pipeline route.

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by conservation and landowner groups last year, which challenged the Corps’ failure to adequately analyze the effects of pipelines authorized under Nationwide Permit 12, including Keystone XL, on local waterways, lands, wildlife, and communities.

The Keystone XL pipeline is also facing ongoing legal challenges from Indigenous groups and Tribes, who have challenged President Trump’s attempt to unilaterally approve the cross-border segment of the pipeline. Construction on that cross-border segment began last week, and the court will conduct a hearing tomorrow on whether to block construction on that segment as well. Meanwhile, Montanans are also urging Governor Steve Bullock to put a hold on construction amid the COVID-19 public health crisis.

“Farmers and ranchers rely on clean water and land security. TransCanada continues their efforts to go around the law in order to build their risky pipeline,” said Jane Kleeb, Bold Alliance Founder. “Hopefully this clear directive from the courts will make it clear TransCanada and our own federal government can not run roughshod over Americans to help out a corporation’s shareholders.”

“This is a tremendous victory for imperiled wildlife that rely on rivers, streams and wetlands,” said Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This ruling makes it clear that the Trump administration can’t continue to push dirty fossil fuel pipelines while ignoring the devastating impacts they have on the environment.”

“This ruling proves, once again, that we are a nation of laws no matter how many times powerful forces seek to undermine bedrock American legal protections,” said Dena Hoff, a Northern Plains Resource Council member and Glendive, Montana farmer. “Given this new development, it’s imperative that all construction be halted to protect Montana’s rural and tribal communities during this pandemic. How, in good conscience, could we risk overwhelming our most vulnerable health care systems for a Canadian project that has never proven to be legally viable?”

“The Trump Administration has gone out of their way to repeatedly and unlawfully ram through permits for this destructive pipeline,” said Marcie Keever, legal director with Friends of the Earth. “Keystone XL and other proposed fossil fuel pipelines would devastate frontline communities and wreak havoc on our environment. Today’s ruling sends a clear signal nationwide that people and the planet must come before profits for polluting corporations.”

“The Trump administration has repeatedly violated the law in their relentless pursuit of seeing this dirty tar sands pipeline built. Today’s ruling confirms, once again, that there’s just no getting around the fact that Keystone XL would devastate communities, wildlife, and clean drinking water,” said Sierra Club Senior Attorney Doug Hayes. “It was true a decade ago, and it’s just as true today: Keystone XL would be a bad deal for the American people and should never be built.”

“The Trump Administration’s ongoing effort to give out goodies to Big Oil hit another setback. Whether they like it or not, the Corps cannot skirt foundational environmental laws. And projects like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will remain stalled as long as the Administration keeps trying to illegally fast-track them,” said Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attorney Cecilia Segal.
Court document:

Rapid spread of coronavirus on Navajo Nation brings total to 921 cases and 38 deaths



Now on Navajo Nation: 83 new cases of COVID-19 and five more deaths reported, with weekend 57-hour curfews to continue through April


Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer
Censored News

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The total number of positive tests for COVID-19 has reached 921 for the Navajo Nation as of Wednesday – an increase of 83 positive cases since Tuesday, according to the Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center. The report also includes 3,239 total negative test results as of Wednesday. There is now a total of 38 confirmed deaths related to COVID-19.

The 921 confirmed positive cases include the following counties: Navajo County, Ariz,: 288; Apache County, AZ: 121; Coconino County, Ariz.: 189; McKinley County, NM: 170; San Juan County, NM: 119; Cibola County, NM: 12; San Juan County, Utah: 11; Socorro County, NM: 7; Sandoval County, NM: 4

"We truly thank many of those who are abiding by the stay-at-home order and the daily curfew, but it’s very disheartening to receive reports of many people going out into the public today and traveling to border towns – most due to the federal stimulus funds that our people are beginning to receive. We are close to finalizing another public health order to implement 57-hour curfew for the remaining weekends for the month of April,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

During a live Facebook update on Wednesday, President Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer urged members of the Navajo Nation to be prudent with their stimulus funds and to save as much as possible due to the uncertainties of the ongoing pandemic.

“We don’t all have to rush out and go shopping because we have some extra funds. Let’s be smart and plan financially for our families and let’s continue to use extreme caution so we don’t spread the virus especially among our elders. 38 people is a scary number – all of our people need to do a better job and stop traveling unless it’s absolutely necessary,” said Vice President Lizer.


Navajo Nation communities receive food donations from the State of New Mexico and Arizona’s St. Mary’s Food Bank

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer commend the state of New Mexico and St. Mary’s Food Bank for coordinating the donation of essential food items to Navajo communities to help families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, the state of New Mexico delivered 9,720 food boxes that include more than 80,000 pounds of rice, beans, potatoes, watermelons, apples, and onions to a designated staging chapter area to help those directly impacted by COVID-19. Communities will prepare the food boxes for delivery to elders and high-risk individuals to New Mexico residents. The New Mexico Indian Affairs Department coordinated the multi-agency efforts that led to several deliveries in Sheep Springs, Thoreau, Standing Rock, and other communities to be distributed regionally.

"On behalf of the Office of the President and Vice President, we express our appreciation to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico Department of Indian Affairs, and Arizona’s St. Mary’s Food Bank for working closely with the Navajo Nation's leadership and local governments during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic is affecting thousands of our Navajo people in profound ways, including the loss of work, lack of medical care, and the need for food and household supplies. The outbreak has significantly impacted families and elders that live in isolated areas of the Navajo Nation, especially those who do not have transportation," said President Jonathan Nez.

"The state of New Mexico will do everything in its power to support the sovereign tribes and pueblos of this state during this pandemic," said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. "My administration has been in constant contact with tribal leaders and partners -- we will continue deliveries of food, water and other necessary resources in addition to the work the Department of Health has done in testing and providing for medical needs. I am grateful for this response and expect more to come in the near- and long-term future."

On April 14, St. Mary’s Food Bank delivered three semi-truck loads totaling 2,000 food boxes to the Tuba City community, where many local and surrounding residents had the opportunity to pick-up the food boxes through a no person-to-person contact procedure. All personal and volunteers wore Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to ensure the safety and well-being of elders and families.

Through the Nation’s partnerships, the Nez-Lizer Administration continues to seek resources for Navajo citizens, patients, elders, and high-risk individuals with necessities such as PPE’s, food, water, sanitizing products, and household items. The distribution of these items also helps families to stay home and to self-quarantine for longer periods of time to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"The effective partnerships have helped us to ensure families know how to find food while schools and senior centers are closed and making sure our children and elders are getting three meals a day. Helping one another will allow us to slow the spread of the virus in the Navajo Nation. As leaders, we will continue to provide resources to help lessen the economic and educational impact of the virus," said Vice President Lizer.

The Navajo Health Command Operation Center will utilize the strike teams, Community Health Representatives, Public Health Nurse, and first responders, to deliver food boxes to elders and individuals with serious underlying medical conditions.

“Tó Nanees Dizi Local Governance is setting a good example for all communities. They have been proactive in working collaboratively with the Navajo Health Command Operations Center and other entities to secure items to help their residents. I thank them and many others for working together,” added President Nez.



For more information regarding donations, please contact the Navajo Nation Health Command Center at (928) 871-7014.

The Navajo Nation’s daily curfew remains in effect from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. and Navajo Police continue to issue citations for curfew violators. President Nez and Vice President Lizer will host another online Town Hall to share COVID-19 updates beginning at 10:00 a.m. (MDT) on Thursday on the Nez-Lizer Facebook page.

For more information including reports, helpful prevention tips, and more resources, please visit the Navajo Department of Health’s COVID-19 website at http://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19. To contact the main Navajo Health Command Operations Center, please call (928) 871-7014.