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FOIA Requests Seek Information Dakota Access Pipeline Decision

The Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) has sent a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking information on communications with Jodi Gillette regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. Gillette, a former advisor to President Obama and the sister of the David Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has played a leading role in the misguided efforts to derail the multibillion dollar pipeline project.

In a statement, Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs, expressed concern about the lack of transparency and potential conflicts of interests related to the Army Corps’ decision to indefinitely delay a federal easement for the pipeline.

“There have been a lot of rumors about the backroom dealings that led to the Administration’s decision to not issue the final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Lee said. “We would hope that the self-purported ‘most transparent Administration in history’ would provide the American people with the background and information that went into this important decision to halt an infrastructure project that had already been approved and was more than 90 percent complete.”

The requests, which were sent to the Departments of Interior, Justice and Energy, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Army Corps of Engineers, outline CFIF’s concerns about improper influence over the Obama administration’s actions:

There is growing concern about the relationship between Dave Archambault II’s sister, Jodi Gillette, and the Obama Administration. Mr. Archambault is the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (SRST) and a critic of the project. Ms. Gillette is a former senior advisor to the President and Secretary of the Interior, and is currently a lobbyist on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux with Sonosky, Chambers, Chambers, Endreson & Perry, LLP. We seek to ensure that Mr. Archambault and Ms. Gillette haven’t wielded improper influence over the Administration’s policies that have resulted in delays in the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.

I request access to and copies of all records since February 1, 2016, related in any way to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Jodi Gillette. This request includes, but is not limited to, all emails, other correspondence, correspondence logs, records of meetings, records of appointments and visitor logs.

CFIF is currently reviewing other potential FOIA requests on the matter.


Problems Continue At Standing Rock Protest Camp

A recent InsideSources article highlights a tribal meeting regarding the move of the encampments from the flood zone of the Cannonball and Missouri River. Once snows begin to melt in the spring, the camp is threatened by floodwaters at the confluence of the rivers, further demonstrating the ongoing hazard of the non-permanent structures erected at the protest camp.

The article also notes the fractures within the camp and the tribe, as well as the poaching allegations by North Dakota Game and Fish that has caught recent attention.

“Poaching is taking place here, from the camp. There are pictures from it. I saw a video of a deer swimming in circles and then getting stabbed at the camp at the Cannonball River,” said Standing Rock Chairman Dave Archambault. “I saw another picture of a mule deer buck being skinned by non-Indians.”

According to the article, “Signs of the shift from a tribally-driven to tribally-inclusive protest were visible even this fall, when the Oceti Sakowin camp began requiring new arrivals to attend morning orientations and daily camp meetings. The orientations became necessary when outside volunteers began to outnumber tribal members. Increasingly, orientation served to teach non-native protesters how to avoid inadvertently interfering with traditional ceremonies and worship practices.”

What remains remarkable is that despite an ebb in the camp’s population, millions in donated funds from across America remain in the hands of the tribe who has promised to “pay down tribal debts.” Meanwhile the protest camp remains open despite well documented hygiene and public health issues, and continued arrests, bringing the total people arrested since August 10th 2016 to 584.

As the rift grows between pro-camp and anti-camp factions within the tribe, as well as outside pressure from environmental activists, shutting the camp down remains the right decision for the tribal, state, and federal government.


Energy Secretary: Confident U.S. Will Achieve Energy Independence

Outgoing Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz says the U.S. is in an “extraordinarily well-placed position” to achieve energy independence. In a wide-ranging interview with NPR’s Rachel Martin, Moniz highlighted that America is now the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas and continues to make significant gains in renewable energy development.

“I do want to caution – we are not at the point where we produce as much energy as we use, so we still do have some oil imports,” Moniz said. “But we may reach that point in the next decade some time.”

The U.S. has made tremendous advances in domestic energy production that allow for the safe, efficient recovery of oil and gas resources. This modern day energy renaissance has also resulted in the need for critical upgrades to the infrastructure that transports these resources around the country. That is why projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline are so critical to establishing and maintaining energy independence.


SRST Council Votes to Shut Down Sacred Stone Camp

According to a report from the Free Thought Project, on Thursday, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council voted to shut down the Sacred Stone Camp and upped the pressure on other protesters to provide plans for cleaning up the area. A decision that could not be more appropriate given the harsh weather conditions in the area and the potential for Spring flooding that is expected once the season changes.

In addition to voting to shut the camp down, the Council noted they will use the several million dollars in funds that were donated for the camp’s support to pay off tribal debt. It begs the question, what debt will they be using the funds which were sent in to support illegal protest activity against a lawfully permitted project?

While there was dissension regarding the shuttering of the camp, the decision is the right one. At a time when nearly 40% of individuals and families living on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation live below the poverty line according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, those funds would be better spent providing and maintaining resources on the reservation – not further supporting illegal protest activity that could put people into harm’s way if the weather turns.

Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II stated in the meeting that the camps have rampant health and hygiene issues and must be shut down. Archambault, addressing rumors he and other leaders had simply taken donation money for themselves stated, “[w]e’re not sitting around taking donations,” “but when it comes to the tribe, this council is accountable and responsible for the members it represents — fiscally responsible. So, we’ve always been transparent, whenever resources come to the tribe.”

The report highlights a growing rift between members of the tribe who wish for the protests to end and those that want to continue.


Burgum Highlights Dakota Access in State of the State Address

In his first State of the State address, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum warned Tuesday of potential danger to protesters and first responders if Dakota Access Pipeline opponents don’t vacate a camp in southern Morton County. “Chairman Dave Archambault from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has repeatedly asked for the remaining protesters to leave. We unequivocally support him in this request,” Burgum said. The federal government previously asked protesters to leave in a letter to Standing Rock officials late last fall.

The camp, which was illegally constructed on a managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is likely to flood following the winter thaw this spring. Furthermore, Burgum said cleaning up the area, which is currently littered with abandoned cars, illegal structures and human waste, will be essential to mitigating potential environmental damage.

Building off efforts by former Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Burgum also pledged to deescalate tensions with tribal nations, including upcoming meetings with each tribe in the coming week. “Our goal is to understand each tribe’s individual issues and circumstances so that we may move forward together toward greater mutual respect, harmony and prosperity,” he said.

At the same time, Burgum made clear that enforcing the rule of law and protecting area residents will remain a priority. “Peaceful protest is a protected right of all Americans,” Burgum said. “However, protesters must respect private property rights, court orders and law enforcement personnel. Acts of vandalism, harassment and trespass are not a part of North Dakota’s character and will not be tolerated.”

The MAIN Coalition applauds Gov. Burgum’s continued interest in the peaceful completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and remains thankful for former Gov. Dalrymple’s leadership during challenging times.


New Year, More Arrests

Protests continue against the Dakota Access Pipeline and protesters continue to violate laws across the country, engaging in dangerous actions to draw attention to their causes.

In North Dakota five people were arrested on Tuesday December 27 for trespassing after crossing the Cannonball River onto Army Corps land, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement on Wednesday. Later in the evening, law enforcement said a group of around 100 protesters gathered on a bridge that was the site of previous demonstrations and police fired sponge rounds at people attempting to remove a “No Trespassing” sign according to a Reuters report.

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said in the statement, “actions by protesters yesterday are proving they are not willing to be peaceful, and are certainly not respectful of our mutual agreement.”

But North Dakota isn’t the only site of these actions, two Dakota Access Pipeline protesters unfurled an anti-DAPL banner from the rafters of US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis during a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears on New Year’s Day. The banner included a U.S. Bank logo with the word “divest” written vertically down the banner. At the bottom, it said, “#NoDAPL.”

According to police, the protesters demanded the media be present when they came down from the rafters. Once down, they were taken to jail and charged with trespassing.


Stevens: ‘Fake News’ Shaped Dakota Access Debate

In a new opinion piece, Craig Stevens, spokesman for the MAIN Coalition, outlined how ‘fake news’ shaped the public debate and governmental decisions regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“We saw fake news play a critical role in the public’s outcry in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Stevens wrote. “From my perspective, it was astounding that individuals and even elected officials were so loose with the truth and so unaffected by the facts.”

Stevens went on to outline several instances when blatantly false information shared by pipeline opponents, including multiple images that originated decades ago during completely unrelated events.

“[A] Facebook image — ostensibly of thousands of Standing Rock protesters — was shared more than 400,000 times. However, a critical eye and a quick Google search debunked the image as a photo from Woodstock 1969.”

As Stevens noted, the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy highlighted an extreme example of how ‘fake news’ can have impacts far beyond its origins as white noise on social media channels. In the case of Dakota Access, it is evident that the steady flow of false information allowed mainstream media and elected officials to miss key facts about a vital piece of national infrastructure.

“Taken together, this groundswell of armchair activism, coupled with the perpetuation of fake news, helped support an ultimately political decision that halted a $3.8 billion dollar infrastructure project,” Stevens wrote. “It’s concerning that as we move forward, elected officials and policymakers could so easily be swayed by rhetoric lined with demonstrably false statements.”

Read Stevens’ full opinion piece here.


Jay Timmons: From Day One, President Trump Should Focus On Strengthening Our Energy Security

In an opinion piece by Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Manufacturers Association and David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association, the authors highlight the importance of the Dakota Access Pipeline as a part of broader American energy security.

This should be a Day 1 priority for the incoming Trump Administration.

“There are no shortcuts to creating a climate that fosters job growth and strengthens manufacturing, but investing in our country’s energy infrastructure is a good place to start.”

The controversy that arose during the Dakota Access Pipeline allowed for an environment of political interests to supersede the needs of America’s energy future and the needs of American workers. But with promises to end the “business as usual” attitude that pervades Washington DC, President-elect Trump has a head start with the promise of this important energy project.