Tribal and environmental groups call on President Obama to step in to block an oil pipeline planned from North Dakota. Pool Photo by Michael Reynolds/Pool | License Photo
FORT YATES, N.D., Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Environmental and tribal groups protesting an oil pipeline from North Dakota said in a letter to the White House it poses a threat to their existence.
Tribal groups are suing federal regulators over permits for the 1,134-mile pipeline because of threats to the Missouri River and other regional water ways. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which examined separately each water crossing, is accused of sidelining tribal interest.
In a letter to President Obama, tribal and environmental groups said the oil pipeline from North Dakota would threaten sacred sites and potentially parts of the regional drinking water supply.
"If there were to be a spill, which history has taught us is not a question of if but when, it would constitute an existential threat to the tribe's culture and way of life," the letter stated
In their suit, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said the Army Corps used a fast-track permitting process that forfeited the public input process. In a statement on its oversight role, the corps said it was evaluating the pipeline at water body crossings to ensure it won't have an adverse impact, particularly on navigation.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline was on par with the opposition to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which the White House denied in part on environmental grounds.
"Like the Keystone XL pipeline, which I opposed since day one, the Dakota Access fracked oil pipeline, will transport some of the dirtiest fuel on the planet," he said in a statement.
The pipeline would transport oil from North Dakota to Illinois in order to get it to the regional refining market. Much of the oil leaving North Dakota now does so by rail, a transport method also under scrutiny because of deadly derailments in past years.
At its peak, Dakota Access would transport about half of the oil that North Dakota produces per day, or around 570,000 barrels per day.
Last week, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed an emergency declaration in order to manage public safety risks associated with Dakota Access Pipeline protests.