Some 600 barrels of oil and 90,000 barrels of production water, also known as brine, spilled from an oil well on the Fort Peck Reservation in Montana in late April. Photo courtesy Environmental Protection Agency

Native Sun News Today: Fort Peck Tribes angered by oil spill in Montana

Latest oil spill inspires tribal anti-pipeline rally

By Talli Nauman
Health & Environment Editor
Native Sun News Today

POPLAR, Mont. – The Ft. Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, headquartered here, decried the most recent toxic oilfield spill as all the more reason to resist TransCanada Corp.’s construction of the Keystone XL tar-sands crude pipeline near reservation land and water.

The April spill is staunched but still being cleaned up, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified the public on May 14, as hundreds of tribal members and organized for a May 23 rally backing their lawsuit over the pipeline permit.

“This latest spill is further indication of the detrimental effects oil production can have on the environment and is yet another threat to the tribes’ water quality,” Fort Peck Tribal Chair Floyd Azure stated in a news release.

Tribal officials went on to insist the spill “further reinforces their opposition to the XL Pipeline and pipeline development on or near the reservation,” it said.

Ft. Peck Tribal Water Commission Chair Bill Whitehead was set to speak at the rally in Great Falls, Montana on the eve of a hearing being held there in the pipeline case.

The case, before the Great Falls Division of the U.S. District Court of Montana, challenges the legality of U.S. President Donald Trump’s State Department to grant a Presidential Permit to build the pipeline across the border from Canada into the United States after the Administration of former President Barack Obama denied the permit.

Sponsoring the rally are plaintiffs Indigenous Environmental Network, North Coast Rivers Alliance, Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resource Defense Council, and Sierra Club.

In the lead-up to the hearing, District Judge Brian Morris on April 18 ordered U.S. Secretary of State Ryan Zinke and co-defendant TransCanada Corp. to produce records they had argued against supplying to the plaintiffs. Just about a week later, on April 27, the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes’ Office of Environmental Protection received the spill report. A cattle rancher doing a flyover in the area discovered it at a remote oil well operated by Anadarko Minerals Inc. near Lustre, Montana.

Lustre is located in Valley County in the central part of the reservation, which hosts major drilling in the Bakken and Three Forks formations that has resulted in widespread underground water pollution.


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