BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — American Indian tribes who are still fighting the Dakota Access oil pipeline in court have dropped an appeal of a federal judge's decision that allowed final construction to proceed on the project that is just two weeks from operating commercially.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in early March refused to stop completion of the pipeline based on the claims of Sioux tribes that it threatens water they consider sacred. The Cheyenne River Sioux appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which refused to grant an emergency order stopping oil from flowing while the appeal was decided.
Developer Energy Transfer Partners finished construction on the pipeline and began filling it with oil in late March. Spokeswoman Vicki Granado confirmed this week that the line fill process has been completed.
“Our commercial operations begin June 1, whereby we will begin transporting crude per our contracts with shippers,'' she said.
With oil already in the line, Cheyenne River attorneys in late April submitted a motion to voluntarily dismiss their claim in the appeals court, and the motion was granted Monday.
The pipeline will move North Dakota oil 1,200 miles through South Dakota and Iowa to a distribution point in Illinois. ETP maintains the pipeline is safe, but the Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, Yankton and Oglala Sioux tribes in the Dakotas fear environmental harm. They're continuing to fight the project in federal court in Washington, D.C., hoping to convince Boasberg to shut down the pipeline.
ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) — Four of six people charged in a tribal embezzlement case in South Dakota have pleaded guilty in federal court in Aberdeen.
Carrie Godfrey, Gerald Heminger Jr. and Colette White pleaded guilty this week to conspiracy to commit theft from a tribal organization, the Aberdeen News (http://bit.ly/2rm87fY) reported.
Court documents show the case involves the unlawful spending of more than $81,000 from Big Coulee District, a political subdivision of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe.
Godfrey's plea agreement said she'll pay over $31,000 in restitution to Big Coulee. Heminger and White will pay Big Coulee more than $5,000 each.
Gerald German Jr. pleaded guilty to theft from a tribal organization. He agreed to pay nearly $17,000 to Big Coulee and $63,000 to the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. The second payment is in connection to a separate case.
The defendants were on the executive board of the Big Coulee District. While board members receive a stipend, court documents show the group issued checks for personal use from 2011-13.
They are scheduled to be sentenced in August.
The two other defendants in the case are Ann German, who was the district coordinator, and Calvin Max Sr., who was on the executive board. German is scheduled for a hearing May 30. According to her plea agreement, she will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit theft from a tribal organization. No plea agreement has been reached in Max's case.
Big Coulee District administers assistance programs for home and emergency repairs.