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Tribes: Pipeline review company has conflict of interest

September 22, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The head of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is asking a federal agency overseeing the environmental review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline to cut ties with a contractor conducting the analysis, citing a conflict of interest.

Chairman Mike Faith and other tribal leaders fighting the pipeline sent a letter Wednesday to a top U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official, taking issue with Environmental Resources Management, the company that’s doing the review, and its ties to the oil industry, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

One of the tribes’ concerns is that the London-based company is a member of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group that lobbies for the oil industry and has submitted court briefs supporting Dakota Access.

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The tribes also cite testimony from an Environmental Resources Management employee to South Dakota regulators in 2015. After reviewing the proposed pipeline, the employee concluded that it “is not likely to pose a threat of serious injury to the environment.”

“In essence, ERM is an agent of DAPL, rather than a neutral party,” reads the tribes’ letter sent to Jaime Pinkham, acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.

The tribes say the Corps’ selection of the company “compromises” the integrity of the environmental review process and they want it to start over.

The Corps of Engineers and Environmental Resources Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The pipeline underwent a less-stringent environmental review overseen by the Corps before the agency first issued a permit for it in 2017. Pipeline operator Energy Transfer maintains that review was sufficient.

Dakota Access has the capacity to carry as much as two-thirds of North Dakota’s daily oil output from the Bakken oil fields to Illinois.

The pipeline has been in operation since June 2017.