2007 Sep 28
by Marie Jones Holmes
On Friday, September 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled in favor of Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon (NN), a Passamaquoddy tribal group, in a lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The group can now proceed with its lawsuit before U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock.
NN had filed its lawsuit challenging the BIA's approval of a lease of Passamaquoddy tribal land to Quoddy Bay LLC. The lease would authorize the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Split Rock at Pleasant Point. NN considers the Split Rock site to be an area of major historical cultural and spiritual importance to the Passamaquoddy people, and NN members are committed to protecting the sacred place.
NN maintains that BIA failed to comply with the requirements of several federal major laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Indian Long-term Leasing Act. These laws require BIA to consider the cultural, historical and environmental impacts of the proposed terminal before approving the lease. Because of this abdication of federally required responsibilities, NN maintains that BIA's approval of the lease is invalid.
BIA sought to have NN's case dismissed, and the district court granted the motion. The district court based its decision in large part on BIA's assertion that the lease was conditioned on completion of appropriate studies in the course of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licensing process.
In their arguments before the court of appeals, however, BIA changed its story and conceded that the lease was in fact final. For that and other reasons the court of appeals ruled that NN can proceed with its claims.
NN spokesperson Vera Francis states, "This ruling means that we get our day in our court. All we want is the opportunity to explain to the district court why BIA's approval of the lease violated the law and their obligation to the tribe. We were sorely disappointed when the case was dismissed and are now elated that we will have the chance to present our case."
© 2007 The Quoddy Tides
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.