On August 14, 2008 Judge Woodcock dismissed our claims against the Bureau of Indian Affairs. We have been here before. Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon (We Take Care of Our Land), comprised of members of the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy community remains focused on ensuring that the merits of its case are heard. We Take Care of Our Land intends to appeal Judge Woodcock’s opinion to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, Massachusetts. While Judge Woodcock’s opinion is disappointing, his obiter sends a powerful message about the problematic nature of this ground lease.
For almost three years, our organization has been engaged in litigation against the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). It was not until 2007, two years into our litigation, that the BIA raised the issue of exhaustion, on which Judge Woodcock based his decision to dismiss. Our lawsuit is based on the 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.
Our ultimate objective is to reopen the lease decision and provide an opportunity for all tribal members to decide on whether this project is truly in the best interests of the community based on sound environmental and economic information. Our position is that no appeal was required because BIA’s approval of the lease was final and effective immediately, without having first given careful consideration to these issues before approving the lease. We believe BIA should have given careful consideration to these issues before approving the lease.
Arguments concerning the narrow interpretation of Judge Woodcock’s latest decision dismissing the exhaustion issue and not taking into consideration our extra-record evidence will be addressed. Our extra-record evidence addressed the nature and scope of an LNG terminal and project, endangered whales, environmental impacts, as well as cultural impacts. We offered expert testimony by Andrea Bear Nicholas and a comprehensive analysis -- the BIA provided barely a paragraph when it gave its rubber stamp to approve the ground lease.
“Beliefs driven by the idea that our actions must be informed by descendants' rights is counter to those whose view is that individualism and the destruction of culture are workable options. On the contrary, everywhere you look, you can see that economies built on these very notions are quickly reaching a tipping point,” says Vera Francis, NN organizer.
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.
Persons may access our the Nulankeyutomonen Nkihtahkomikumon website at www.wetakecareofourland.org for additional information. [Website is no longer active.]