Judge denies request to halt Dakota Access pipeline work

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/14/2017 10:00 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Monday refused to stop construction on the last stretch of the Dakota Access pipeline, which is progressing much faster than expected and could be operational in as little as 30 days.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled after an hourlong hearing that as long as oil isn't flowing through the pipeline, there is no imminent harm to the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Sioux tribes, which are suing to stop the project. But he said he'd consider the arguments more thoroughly at another hearing on Feb. 27.

That gives the tribes hope that they still might prevail, Cheyenne River Chairman Harold Frazier said.

"To put that pipeline in the ground would be irreparable harm for us in our culture," he said.

The tribes requested the temporary injunction last week after Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners got federal permission to lay pipe under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota. That's the last big section of the $3.8 billion pipeline, which would carry oil from North Dakota to Illinois.

The tribes say the pipeline would endanger their cultural sites and water supply. They added a religious freedom component to their case last week by arguing that clean water is necessary to practice the Sioux religion.

"The mere presence of the oil in the pipeline renders the water spiritually impure," said Nicole Ducheneaux, lawyer for the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe.

But Boasberg said any immediate harm to the tribe "comes from when the spigots are turned on and the oil flows through the pipeline."

Despite the setback, American Indian activist Chase Iron Eyes said pipeline opponents will continue fighting the project in the courts and maintaining an on-the-ground presence in the drilling area, "in peaceful prayer and in dignity as we assert our rights to protect our environment, our economy and our sovereignty."

ETP spokeswoman Vicki Granado said last week that the drilling work would take about two months and that the full pipeline system would be operational within three months. But David Debold, a lawyer for Dakota Access, said work is going more quickly and suggested the pipeline could be ready for oil in as soon as 30 days.

"We're not in a position where we can agree to any kind of stopping of the pipeline," Debold said.

In an email Monday evening to The Associated Press, Granado touted the efficiency of the company's equipment and crews, but didn't elaborate further.

Energy Transfer Partners received final approval from the Army last week to lay pipe under the reservoir and complete the 1,200-mile pipeline. Drilling work began immediately under Lake Oahe, which is the water source for both tribes.

The company's attorneys filed court documents early Monday urging Boasberg to reject the tribes' request, calling the new religious freedom argument "exceedingly tardy," ''not construction-related" and a "last-minute delay tactic."

"Dakota Access has the greatest respect for the religious beliefs and traditions of (tribes). The emergency relief sought here simply is not necessary to protect the exercise of those beliefs or preserve those traditions," wrote William Scherman, a company attorney.

The Corps also filed court documents Monday arguing that a work stoppage isn't warranted, saying the tribes will have plenty of time to make their case before oil flows through the pipeline.

Work under Lake Oahe had been held up in the courts until President Donald Trump last month instructed the Army Corps of Engineers to advance construction. The Army is involved because its engineering branch manages the river and its system of hydroelectric dams, which is owned by the federal government.

Energy Transfer Partners maintains that the pipeline is safe and disputes that cultural sites have been affected. But an encampment near the construction in southern North Dakota drew thousands of protesters last year in support of the tribes, leading to occasional clashes with law enforcement and more than 700 arrests.

The camp has thinned to fewer than 300 people, but law enforcement officers continue to maintain a presence in the area. The cost to taxpayers has reached $33 million, the state's Joint Information Center reported Monday.

Multimedia

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
10/23/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Oct. 16, Cherokee Nation citizen Randy Campbell was sworn in as the fifth and newest commissioner of the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission. Campbell replaces CN citizen Teresa Hart who served four years on the commission. According to a letter from Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Campbell spent 35 years with the Teamsters Local Union 523 where he served as president and business manager before retiring in 2007. He also served on the executive board of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. “It’s very humbling,” Campbell said of his appointment. “I was gratified by the chief asking me to take this position.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/22/2017 04:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A white former Oklahoma police officer was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in the off-duty fatal shooting of his daughter's black boyfriend after jurors in three previous trials couldn't decide whether to find him guilty of murder. Jurors deliberated about six hours Wednesday night before finding ex-Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler, 57, guilty of the lesser charge in the August 2014 killing of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who had just started dating Kepler's then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa. The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 20. Lake's death occurred four days before a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9, 2014. Brown's killing touched off months of protests and became a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement, which decries police violence against minorities and calls for greater transparency from law enforcement officials, especially in cases of officer-involved shootings. The issue of race had also become an undercurrent in each of Kepler's previous three trials, with only one African-American being selected for each jury and accusations by civil rights activists that Kepler's attorneys were purposely trying to exclude potential black candidates. Another racial element had been recently added to the case when Kepler argued that he couldn't be tried by state prosecutors because he's a member of an American Indian tribe. A judge determined the fourth trial in less than a year could move forward in state court. Kepler says he's 1/128th Muscogee (Creek). Kepler's attorneys said the 24-year-police veteran was trying to protect Lisa Kepler because she had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Defense attorney Richard O'Carroll said Lisa had been in and out of a homeless shelter after her father forbade her from bringing men home into the house. Kepler told investigators Lake was armed and that he was acting in self-defense, but police didn't find a weapon on Lake or at the scene. "He's bringing it, I'm bringing it," Kepler said from the witness stand. "It was either him or me. I'm not going to stand there and get shot." Kepler retired from the force after he was charged. Prosecutors said Kepler first watched his daughter and Lake from his SUV before approaching them on the street. Lake's aunt disputed Kepler's self-defense account and has said her nephew was reaching out to shake Kepler's hand to introduce himself when Kepler fired. During closing arguments, Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray referred to Kepler's claim that he thought Lake was armed as "the phantom gun" defense. Neither O'Carroll nor District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler immediately returned phone calls seeking comment. Jurors in the previous three trials had deadlocked 11-1, 10-2 and 6-6, forcing the judge to declare mistrials. Although they couldn't agree on the murder charge, jurors in the first trial convicted Kepler of recklessly using his firearm.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/22/2017 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Outpatient mental health and substance abuse programs for 189,000 Oklahoma residents, including some addicted to opioids, will be eliminated or slashed on Nov. 1 because of state budget cuts, the state mental health agency director said Wednesday. Commissioner Terri White of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said the agency will have to drastically cut its budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 if state lawmakers don't fill a $215 million hole in the state budget. The hole was created when the state Supreme Court overturned a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax that was supposed to help fund the agency. "These cuts...are unbearable," White said at a news conference in front of the agency's Crisis Center. "They will decimate the state's behavioral health system." White said the cut to her agency of $75 million, or 23 percent of the total budget will result in the loss of another $106 million in federal matching funds and will be implemented almost entirely in the second half of the fiscal year. Oklahoma has the highest percentage in the nation of people over the age of 12 who have used prescription pain relievers for non-medical reasons in the last year, according to a July report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The budget cuts will eliminate funding for drug courts, which provide treatment options for criminal defendants who are addicted to opioids and other addictive substances. Oklahoma lawmakers convened a special legislative session on Sept. 25 to consider ways to raise new revenue and avoid dramatic cuts, but recessed without an agreement. Negotiations between Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders are continuing. GOP Floor Leader Jon Echols of Oklahoma City did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. White said the agency will trim $65 million of its budget by eliminating all outpatient services except for the delivery of medication needed by mental health and substance abuse patients. The balance will be cut through the elimination of psychiatric residential treatment for children, White said. The agency will continue to provide in-patient psychiatric and substance abuse care for the most acutely ill patients, she said. About 300 state workers will be laid off or terminated due to the cuts as well as thousands of employees in 700 private and nonprofit organizations involved in the mental health and substance abuse fields in the state. Mental health and law enforcement officials who have daily contact with people with mental health and substance abuse issues said the proposed cuts could devastate the lives of those who receive the services. "We will lose lives if we cut outpatient services," said Steve Buck, executive director of the state Office of Juvenile Affairs.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/21/2017 04:00 PM
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge in Washington, D.C., will accept arguments over the next month on whether the developer of the Dakota Access pipeline must stage equipment near an American Indian reservation in southern North Dakota to respond to any oil spill under the Missouri River. The idea is part of a fallback plan proposed by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in August in case U.S. District Judge James Boasberg eventually decided to allow the four-state pipeline to continue operating while federal officials do more study on the $3.8 billion project's impact on the tribe. Boasberg ruled on Oct. 11 that oil could keep flowing from western North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois, as it has been since June 1. President Donald Trump earlier this year pushed through the pipeline's completion. On Wednesday, Boasberg conferred with attorneys on both sides of an ongoing tribal lawsuit against the pipeline and set a timeline for arguments on Standing Rock's proposal. It includes increased public reporting of pipeline issues such as repairs, and implementation of an emergency spill response plan — including equipment staging — at the crossing beneath the Missouri River's Lake Oahe reservoir. The tribe gets its water from the reservoir and fears harm from any spill. Standing Rock is the leader of four Sioux tribes hoping to convince Boasberg to shut down the line, which Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners maintains is safe. Boasberg won't make a decision until the Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the project, completes more study that he ordered in June on the pipeline's impact on Standing Rock. The additional review isn't likely to be completed until next spring, according to the Corps. Boasberg in his ruling allowing pipeline operations to continue noted that the Corps and ETP had not yet expressed their positions on the tribe's "alternative relief" plan and said he would hear arguments on the matter. He'll make a decision on the proposal sometime after mid-November under the timeline for arguments that he set Wednesday.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
10/21/2017 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says federal officials have extended the state's deadline for complying with the REAL ID Act to Oct. 10, 2018. Fallin said Thursday that the compliance deadline was extended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The agency's previous deadline for complying with the federal law passed last week. Fallin says the extension means that the federal government will continue to recognize Oklahoma driver's licenses and ID cards for entering federal buildings and installations for another year. Fallin signed legislation earlier this year to bring the state in compliance with the 2005 law that strengthens rules for government-sanctioned identification. The measure requires state driver's licenses and ID cards to have security enhancements and be issued to people who can prove they are legally in the United States.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/20/2017 04:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Technologies is hosting job fairs from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 28 at 10837 E. Marshall St. The tribally owned company anticipates hiring 100 bilingual call center specialists to respond to calls from Disaster Recovery Service Centers. Hired support specialists will answer questions and perform data entry for individuals and businesses affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. CNT is looking for experienced and entry-level bilingual agents. All applicants must be U.S. citizens, be at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma or GED and have the ability to pass a background and drug screening. Job fair attendees should bring their résumés and be prepared for an interview at the CN Nation Career Services office on Marshall Street. CNT is part of the Cherokee Nation Businesses family of companies and is headquartered in Tulsa, with a regional office in Fort Collins, Colorado, and client locations nationwide. CNT provides unmanned systems expertise, information technology services and technology solutions, geospatial information systems services, as well as management and support of programs, projects, professionals and technical staff. For more information or to apply online, visit <a href="https://cnbjobs.cnb-ss.com/#/jobs/11540" target="_blank">https://cnbjobs.cnb-ss.com/#/jobs/11540</a>.