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Key House Democrats call for hearing on Dakota Access Pipeline






Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona) visited the #NoDAPL encampment in North Dakota on September 11, 2016. Photo from House Committee on Natural Resources: Democrats

Two leading Democrats in the House are calling for a hearing on the Dakota Access Pipeline as Republicans continue to maintain silence on the controversy.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona), the top Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-California), the top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, both visited the #NoDAPL encampment in North Dakota over the weekend. After seeing the struggle first-hand, they want Congress to investigate whether federal agencies properly consulted the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe before approving the pipeline.

"We are very concerned about potential impacts both to sacred sites along the selected route for the pipeline, as well as to the tribe’s water source," the lawmakers said in a letter to their Republican counterparts on Tuesday. "Furthermore, we are disheartened to learn that meaningful consultation with the tribe concerning sacred sites and proposed mitigation plans has still not occurred."

The request is not likely to go far despite widespread and growing support for the #NoDAPL movement. The House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs has all but gone missing in action in the past few months -- Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the chairman of the panel, has convened just six hearings on Indian issues since the start of 2016.

In comparison, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs holds hearings and meetings just about every week when Congress is in session. Since the beginning of the year, the panel has advanced about two dozen bills, with several becoming law.

Touring the Standing Rock encampment today was Representative Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-California, 36th Congressional District). Native News Online photo by Shane McSauby

Posted by Native News Online on Saturday, September 10, 2016

The subject matter of the #NoDAPL controversy also poses conflicts for Republicans, whose agenda embraces energy development. No GOP lawmakers sided with Indian Country during the battle over the Keystone XL Pipeline and few are willing to speak about Dakota Access without fear of seeming too pro-tribal.

"It is incumbent upon all parties to move forward peacefully and expeditiously, within the law, to come to a resolution that honors the rights of lawful commerce," Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) said in a statement on Friday, after the Obama administration took the extraordinary step of putting a hold on a key portion of the project.

The hands-off approach to Dakota Access stands in contrast to the GOP's treatment of the Gold King Mine disaster that polluted the waters on three reservations in the Southwest. Republican leaders convened a slew of hearings in Washington, D.C., and in Arizona to criticize the Obama administration and to press for environmental justice remedies for the affected tribes, including the Navajo Nation, whose leaders have repeatedly expressed solidarity with the #NoDAPL movement and have gone to North Dakota to emphasize their support.

"The position the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is taking to halt the pipeline is one that is common to every Native American tribe. We all must consistently work to protect our land, our natural resources and especially our water," Navajo President Russell Begaye said in a statement on Friday.

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