The Saint Croix Courier

St. Stephen, NB

2008 Jul 1

Tribal members appear in court Tuesday

Arguments begin in anti-LNG lawsuit

BANGOR, Me. — On Tuesday, July 1, 2008, attorneys for Nulankeyutmonen Nkihtaqmikon (We Take Care of Our Land) and several members of the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy community will appear for oral argument before Judge Woodcock in the U.S. District Court in Bangor, Maine.

For almost three years, the organization has been engaged in litigation against the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The lawsuit is based on BIA’s failure to comply with four federal laws in connection with its June 1, 2005 approval of a ground lease authorizing Quoddy Bay LNG, LLC to develop a liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility at the Split Rock site within the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Reservation. Before approving the lease, BIA failed to prepare an environmental impact statement, failed to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service about impacts on endangered whales, failed to consult with the Tribal Historic Preservation officer about cultural impacts, and failed to analyze the fair market value of the lease. The tribe members are asking the court for an order setting aside BIA’s lease approval and directing BIA to fully comply with all applicable federal laws.

The tribe members say the ultimate objective is to reopen the lease decision and provide an opportunity for all tribal members to vote on whether this project is truly in the best interests of the community based on sound environmental and economic information.

The July 1 hearing will encompass all of the outstanding procedural issues in the case. In particular, the parties will address the issue of whether Nulankeyutmonen Nkihtaqmikon was required to pursue an administrative appeal with the Interior Board of Indian Appeals before filing a lawsuit in federal court. The group’s position is that no appeal was required because BIA’s approval of the lease was final and effective immediately. In addition, the court will likely ask the parties questions relating to other outstanding issues, such as whether certain documents must be disclosed and what types of evidence the court will take into consideration.

This hearing is the culmination of nearly three years of litigation, and Nulankeyutmonen Nkihtaqmikon is hoping for a quick ruling from Judge Woodcock. Representatives say they are anxious to move beyond these procedural hurdles and, at long last, address the case’s real merits.

“The heart of the case,” the group says, “is that the construction and operation of an LNG facility at Split Rock raises serious environmental concerns and would have devastating effects on the Tribe’s cultural and spiritual heritage. We believe BIA should have given careful consideration to these issues before approving the lease.”

“This case has far reaching effect, and many likeminded indigenous people are following our progress. The significance of land, air, and water cannot be silenced by a few speculators who refuse to honor the earth, bays, and people,” says Dr. Deanna Francis.

This litigation is being handled by the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School, with Associate Director Teresa Clemmer as lead attorney.


© 2008 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.

The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB