On March 25, 2020, a judge for the United States District Court in the District of Columbia held that the Army Corp of Engineers (hereinafter the Corp) failed to comply with the standards of the National Environmental Policy Act (hereinafter “the Act”) by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before deciding to approve federal permits for construction of a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline which ran under the Mississippi River. The ruling came four years after the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe brought the original action in 2016. The Act is meant to ensure the public that agencies have considered the environmental consequences of a potential project before going forward with it, and so requires agencies to consider any and every significant environmental impact that could result from the project through completion of an Environmental Assessment, and, in some cases, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
In early January of this year, the House Committee on Armed Services granted an extension to a bill that would increase border security. An unlikely opponent of this bill is the environmental lobby, since the bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to waive the requirements of some of the most important environmental protection statutes. These statutes have been the basis for almost all the citizen enforcement in the environmental arena; they work to maintain protections for 73 different areas along the border, along with numerous endangered species.
Environmental and tribal groups have historically taken important roles in implementing and enforcing regulations to protect the environment. In a recent action, environmental and tribal groups took on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in an attempt to quash BLM’s elimination of a rule regulating the chemicals used in fracking. Although the final rule was originally officially published and implemented in 2015, it never went into full effect due to major challenges brought by the oil and gas industry. However, the Trump administration recently repealed the rule in its entirety, prompting a lawsuit arguing that the BLM is required to promulgate regulations as part of its mission.